Saturday, November 10, 2007


Vailima Letters by Robert Louis Stevenson

Vailima Letters Robert Louis Stevenson
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is a hard and interesting and
beautiful life that we lead now. Our place is in a deep
cleft of Vaea Mountain, some six hundred feet above the sea,
embowered in forest, which is our strangling enemy, and which
we combat with axes and dollars. I went crazy over outdoor
work, and had at last to confine myself to the house, or
literature must have gone by the board. NOTHING is so
interesting as weeding, clearing, and path-making; the
oversight of labourers becomes a disease; it is quite an
effort not to drop into the farmer; and it does make you feel
so well. To come down covered with mud and drenched with
sweat and rain after some hours in the bush, change, rub
down, and take a chair in the verandah, is to taste a quiet
conscience. And the strange thing that I mark is this: If I
go out and make sixpence, bossing my labourers and plying the
cutlass or the spade, idiot conscience applauds me; if I sit
in the house and make twenty pounds, idiot conscience wails
over my neglect and the day wasted. For near a fortnight I
did not go beyond the verandah; then I found my rush of work
run out, and went down for the night to Apia; put in Sunday
afternoon with our consul, 'a nice young man,' dined with my
friend H. J. Moors in the evening, went to church - no less -
at the white and half-white church - I had never been before,
and was much interested; the woman I sat next LOOKED a fullblood
native, and it was in the prettiest and readiest
English that she sang the hymns; back to Moors', where we
yarned of the islands, being both wide wanderers, till bedtime;
bed, sleep, breakfast, horse saddled; round to the
mission, to get Mr. Clarke to be my interpreter; over with
him to the King's, whom I have not called on since my return;
received by that mild old gentleman; have some interesting
talk with him about Samoan superstitions and my land - the
scene of a great battle in his (Malietoa Laupepa's) youth -
the place which we have cleared the platform of his fort -
the gulley of the stream full of dead bodies - the fight
rolled off up Vaea mountain-side; back with Clarke to the
Mission; had a bit of lunch and consulted over a queer point
of missionary policy just arisen, about our new Town Hall and
the balls there - too long to go into, but a quaint example
of the intricate questions which spring up daily in the
missionary path.
Then off up the hill; Jack very fresh, the sun (close on
noon) staring hot, the breeze very strong and pleasant; the
ineffable green country all round - gorgeous little birds (I
think they are humming birds, but they say not) skirmishing
in the wayside flowers. About a quarter way up I met a
native coming down with the trunk of a cocoa palm across his
shoulder; his brown breast glittering with sweat and oil:
'Talofa' - 'Talofa, alii - You see that white man? He speak
for you.' 'White man he gone up here?' - 'Ioe (Yes)' -
'Tofa, alii' - 'Tofa, soifua!' I put on Jack up the steep
path, till he is all as white as shaving stick - Brown's
euxesis, wish I had some - past Tanugamanono, a bush village
- see into the houses as I pass - they are open sheds
scattered on a green - see the brown folk sitting there,
suckling kids, sleeping on their stiff wooden pillows - then
on through the wood path - and here I find the mysterious
white man (poor devil!) with his twenty years' certificate of
good behaviour as a book-keeper, frozen out by the strikes in
the colonies, come up here on a chance, no work to be found,
big hotel bill, no ship to leave in - and come up to beg
twenty dollars because he heard I was a Scotchman, offering
to leave his portmanteau in pledge. Settle this, and on
again; and here my house comes in view, and a war whoop
fetches my wife and Henry (or Simele), our Samoan boy, on the
front balcony; and I am home again, and only sorry that I
shall have to go down again to Apia this day week. I could,
and would, dwell here unmoved, but there are things to be
attended to.
Never say I don't give you details and news. That is a
picture of a letter.
I have been hard at work since I came; three chapters of THE
WRECKER, and since that, eight of the South Sea book, and,
along and about and in between, a hatful of verses. Some day
I'll send the verse to you, and you'll say if any of it is
any good. I have got in a better vein with the South Sea
book, as I think you will see; I think these chapters will do
for the volume without much change. Those that I did in the
JANET NICOLL, under the most ungodly circumstances, I fear
will want a lot of suppling and lightening, but I hope to
have your remarks in a month or two upon that point. It
seems a long while since I have heard from you. I do hope
you are well. I am wonderful, but tired from so much work;
'tis really immense what I have done; in the South Sea book I
have fifty pages copied fair, some of which has been four
times, and all twice written, certainly fifty pages of solid
scriving inside a fortnight, but I was at it by seven a.m.
till lunch, and from two till four or five every day; between
whiles, verse and blowing on the flageolet; never outside.
If you could see this place! but I don't want any one to see
it till my clearing is done, and my house built. It will be
a home for angels.
So far I wrote after my bit of dinner, some cold meat and
bananas, on arrival. Then out to see where Henry and some of
the men were clearing the garden; for it was plain there was
to be no work to-day indoors, and I must set in consequence
to farmering. I stuck a good while on the way up, for the
path there is largely my own handiwork, and there were a lot
of sprouts and saplings and stones to be removed. Then I
reached our clearing just where the streams join in one; it
had a fine autumn smell of burning, the smoke blew in the
woods, and the boys were pretty merry and busy. Now I had a
private design:-
[Map which cannot be reproduced]
The Vaita'e I had explored pretty far up; not yet the other
stream, the Vaituliga (g=nasal n, as ng in sing); and up
that, with my wood knife, I set off alone. It is here quite
dry; it went through endless woods; about as broad as a
Devonshire lane, here and there crossed by fallen trees; huge
trees overhead in the sun, dripping lianas and tufted with
orchids, tree ferns, ferns depending with air roots from the
steep banks, great arums - I had not skill enough to say if
any of them were the edible kind, one of our staples here! -
hundreds of bananas - another staple - and alas! I had skill
enough to know all of these for the bad kind that bears no
fruit. My Henry moralised over this the other day; how hard
it was that the bad banana flourished wild, and the good must
be weeded and tended; and I had not the heart to tell him how
fortunate they were here, and how hungry were other lands by
comparison. The ascent of this lovely lane of my dry stream
filled me with delight. I could not but be reminded of old
Mayne Reid, as I have been more than once since I came to the
tropics; and I thought, if Reid had been still living, I
would have written to tell him that, for, me, IT HAD COME
TRUE; and I thought, forbye, that, if the great powers go on
as they are going, and the Chief Justice delays, it would
come truer still; and the war-conch will sound in the hills,
and my home will be inclosed in camps, before the year is
ended. And all at once - mark you, how Mayne Reid is on the
spot - a strange thing happened. I saw a liana stretch
across the bed of the brook about breast-high, swung up my
knife to sever it, and - behold, it was a wire! On either
hand it plunged into thick bush; to-morrow I shall see where
it goes and get a guess perhaps of what it means. To-day I
know no more than - there it is. A little higher the brook
began to trickle, then to fill. At last, as I meant to do
some work upon the homeward trail, it was time to turn. I
did not return by the stream; knife in hand, as long as my
endurance lasted, I was to cut a path in the congested bush.
At first it went ill with me; I got badly stung as high as
the elbows by the stinging plant; I was nearly hung in a
tough liana - a rotten trunk giving way under my feet; it was
deplorable bad business. And an axe - if I dared swing one -
would have been more to the purpose than my cutlass. Of a
sudden things began to go strangely easier; I found stumps,
bushing out again; my body began to wonder, then my mind; I
raised my eyes and looked ahead; and, by George, I was no
longer pioneering, I had struck an old track overgrown, and
was restoring an old path. So I laboured till I was in such
a state that Carolina Wilhelmina Skeggs could scarce have
found a name for it. Thereon desisted; returned to the
stream; made my way down that stony track to the garden,
where the smoke was still hanging and the sun was still in
the high tree-tops, and so home. Here, fondly supposing my
long day was over, I rubbed down; exquisite agony; water
spreads the poison of these weeds; I got it all over my
hands, on my chest, in my eyes, and presently, while eating
an orange, A LA Raratonga, burned my lip and eye with orange
juice. Now, all day, our three small pigs had been adrift,
to the mortal peril of our corn, lettuce, onions, etc., and
as I stood smarting on the back verandah, behold the three
piglings issuing from the wood just opposite. Instantly I
got together as many boys as I could - three, and got the
pigs penned against the rampart of the sty, till the others
joined; whereupon we formed a cordon, closed, captured the
deserters, and dropped them, squeaking amain, into their
strengthened barracks where, please God, they may now stay!
Perhaps you may suppose the day now over; you are not the
head of a plantation, my juvenile friend. Politics
succeeded: Henry got adrift in his English, Bene was too
cowardly to tell me what he was after: result, I have lost
seven good labourers, and had to sit down and write to you to
keep my temper. Let me sketch my lads. - Henry - Henry has
gone down to town or I could not be writing to you - this
were the hour of his English lesson else, when he learns what
he calls 'long expessions' or 'your chief's language' for the
matter of an hour and a half - Henry is a chiefling from
Savaii; I once loathed, I now like and - pending fresh
discoveries - have a kind of respect for Henry. He does good
work for us; goes among the labourers, bossing and watching;
helps Fanny; is civil, kindly, thoughtful; O SI SIC SEMPER!
But will he be 'his sometime self throughout the year'?
Anyway, he has deserved of us, and he must disappoint me
sharply ere I give him up. - Bene - or Peni-Ben, in plain
English - is supposed to be my ganger; the Lord love him!
God made a truckling coward, there is his full history. He
cannot tell me what he wants; he dares not tell me what is
wrong; he dares not transmit my orders or translate my
censures. And with all this, honest, sober, industrious,
miserably smiling over the miserable issue of his own
unmanliness. - Paul - a German - cook and steward - a glutton
of work - a splendid fellow; drawbacks, three: (1) no cook;
(2) an inveterate bungler; a man with twenty thumbs,
continually falling in the dishes, throwing out the dinner,
preserving the garbage; (3) a dr-, well, don't let us say
that - but we daren't let him go to town, and he - poor, good
soul - is afraid to be let go. - Lafaele (Raphael), a strong,
dull, deprecatory man; splendid with an axe, if watched; the
better for a rowing, when he calls me 'Papa' in the most
wheedling tones; desperately afraid of ghosts, so that he
dare not walk alone up in the banana patch - see map. The
rest are changing labourers; and to-night, owing to the
miserable cowardice of Peni, who did not venture to tell me
what the men wanted - and which was no more than fair - all
are gone - and my weeding in the article of being finished!
Pity the sorrows of a planter.
I am, Sir, yours, and be jowned to you, The Planter,
R. L. S.
Tuesday 3rd
I begin to see the whole scheme of letter-writing; you sit
down every day and pour out an equable stream of twaddle.
This morning all my fears were fled, and all the trouble had
fallen to the lot of Peni himself, who deserved it; my field
was full of weeders; and I am again able to justify the ways
of God. All morning I worked at the South Seas, and finished
the chapter I had stuck upon on Saturday. Fanny, awfully
hove-to with rheumatics and injuries received upon the field
of sport and glory, chasing pigs, was unable to go up and
down stairs, so she sat upon the back verandah, and my work
was chequered by her cries. 'Paul, you take a spade to do
that - dig a hole first. If you do that, you'll cut your
foot off! Here, you boy, what you do there? You no get
work? You go find Simele; he give you work. Peni, you tell
this boy he go find Simele; suppose Simele no give him work,
you tell him go 'way. I no want him here. That boy no
good.' - PENI (from the distance in reassuring tones), 'All
right, sir!' - FANNY (after a long pause), 'Peni, you tell
that boy go find Simele! I no want him stand here all day.
I no pay that boy. I see him all day. He no do nothing.' -
Luncheon, beef, soda-scones, fried bananas, pine-apple in
claret, coffee. Try to write a poem; no go. Play the
flageolet. Then sneakingly off to farmering and pioneering.
Four gangs at work on our place; a lively scene; axes
crashing and smoke blowing; all the knives are out. But I
rob the garden party of one without a stock, and you should
see my hand - cut to ribbons. Now I want to do my path up
the Vaituliga single-handed, and I want it to burst on the
public complete. Hence, with devilish ingenuity, I begin it
at different places; so that if you stumble on one section,
you may not even then suspect the fulness of my labours.
Accordingly, I started in a new place, below the wire, and
hoping to work up to it. It was perhaps lucky I had so bad a
cutlass, and my smarting hand bid me stay before I had got up
to the wire, but just in season, so that I was only the
better of my activity, not dead beat as yesterday.
A strange business it was, and infinitely solitary; away
above, the sun was in the high tree-tops; the lianas noosed
and sought to hang me; the saplings struggled, and came up
with that sob of death that one gets to know so well; great,
soft, sappy trees fell at a lick of the cutlass, little tough
switches laughed at and dared my best endeavour. Soon,
toiling down in that pit of verdure, I heard blows on the far
side, and then laughter. I confess a chill settled on my
Being so dead alone, in a place where by rights none should
be beyond me, I was aware, upon interrogation, if those blows
had drawn nearer, I should (of course quite unaffectedly)
have executed a strategic movement to the rear; and only the
other day I was lamenting my insensibility to superstition!
Am I beginning to be sucked in? Shall I become a midnight
twitterer like my neighbours? At times I thought the blows
were echoes; at times I thought the laughter was from birds.
For our birds are strangely human in their calls. Vaea
mountain about sundown sometimes rings with shrill cries,
like the hails of merry, scattered children. As a matter of
fact, I believe stealthy wood-cutters from Tanugamanono were
above me in the wood and answerable for the blows; as for the
laughter, a woman and two children had come and asked Fanny's
leave to go up shrimp-fishing in the burn; beyond doubt, it
was these I heard. Just at the right time I returned; to
wash down, change, and begin this snatch of letter before
dinner was ready, and to finish it afterwards, before Henry
has yet put in an appearance for his lesson in 'long
Dinner: stewed beef and potatoes, baked bananas, new loafbread
hot from the oven, pine-apple in claret. These are
great days; we have been low in the past; but now are we as
belly-gods, enjoying all things.
A gorgeous evening of after-glow in the great tree-tops and
behind the mountain, and full moon over the lowlands and the
sea, inaugurated a night of horrid cold. To you effete
denizens of the so-called temperate zone, it had seemed
nothing; neither of us could sleep; we were up seeking extra
coverings, I know not at what hour - it was as bright as day.
The moon right over Vaea - near due west, the birds strangely
silent, and the wood of the house tingling with cold; I
believe it must have been 60 degrees! Consequence; Fanny has
a headache and is wretched, and I could do no work. (I am
trying all round for a place to hold my pen; you will hear
why later on; this to explain penmanship.) I wrote two
pages, very bad, no movement, no life or interest; then I
wrote a business letter; then took to tootling on the
flageolet, till glory should call me farmering.
I took up at the fit time Lafaele and Mauga - Mauga, accent
on the first, is a mountain, I don't know what Mauga means -
mind what I told you of the value of g - to the garden, and
set them digging, then turned my attention to the path. I
could not go into my bush path for two reasons: 1st, sore
hands; 2nd, had on my trousers and good shoes. Lucky it was.
Right in the wild lime hedge which cuts athwart us just
homeward of the garden, I found a great bed of kuikui -
sensitive plant - our deadliest enemy. A fool brought it to
this island in a pot, and used to lecture and sentimentalise
over the tender thing. The tender thing has now taken charge
of this island, and men fight it, with torn hands, for bread
and life. A singular, insidious thing, shrinking and biting
like a weasel; clutching by its roots as a limpet clutches to
a rock. As I fought him, I bettered some verses in my poem,
the WOODMAN; the only thought I gave to letters. Though the
kuikui was thick, there was but a small patch of it, and when
I was done I attacked the wild lime, and had a hand-to-hand
skirmish with its spines and elastic suckers. All this time,
close by, in the cleared space of the garden, Lafaele and
Mauga were digging. Suddenly quoth Lafaele, 'Somebody he
sing out.' - 'Somebody he sing out? All right. I go.' And
I went and found they had been whistling and 'singing out'
for long, but the fold of the hill and the uncleared bush
shuts in the garden so that no one heard, and I was late for
dinner, and Fanny's headache was cross; and when the meal was
over, we had to cut up a pineapple which was going bad, to
make jelly of; and the next time you have a handful of broken
blood-blisters, apply pine-apple juice, and you will give me
news of it, and I request a specimen of your hand of write
five minutes after - the historic moment when I tackled this
history. My day so far.
Fanny was to have rested. Blessed Paul began making a duckhouse;
she let him be; the duck-house fell down, and she had
to set her hand to it. He was then to make a drinking-place
for the pigs; she let him be again - he made a stair by which
the pigs will probably escape this evening, and she was near
weeping. Impossible to blame the indefatigable fellow;
energy is too rare and goodwill too noble a thing to
discourage; but it's trying when she wants a rest. Then she
had to cook the dinner; then, of course - like a fool and a
woman - must wait dinner for me, and make a flurry of
herself. Her day so far. CETERA ADHUC DESUNT.
I have been too tired to add to this chronicle, which will at
any rate give you some guess of our employment. All goes
well; the kuikui - (think of this mispronunciation having
actually infected me to the extent of misspelling! tuitui is
the word by rights) - the tuitui is all out of the paddock -
a fenced park between the house and boundary; Peni's men
start to-day on the road; the garden is part burned, part
dug; and Henry, at the head of a troop of underpaid
assistants, is hard at work clearing. The part clearing you
will see from the map; from the house run down to the stream
side, up the stream nearly as high as the garden; then back
to the star which I have just added to the map.
My long, silent contests in the forest have had a strange
effect on me. The unconcealed vitality of these vegetables,
their exuberant number and strength, the attempts - I can use
no other word - of lianas to enwrap and capture the intruder,
the awful silence, the knowledge that all my efforts are only
like the performance of an actor, the thing of a moment, and
the wood will silently and swiftly heal them up with fresh
effervescence; the cunning sense of the tuitui, suffering
itself to be touched with wind-swayed grasses and not minding
- but let the grass be moved by a man, and it shuts up; the
whole silent battle, murder, and slow death of the contending
forest; weigh upon the imagination. My poem the WOODMAN
stands; but I have taken refuge in a new story, which just
shot through me like a bullet in one of my moments of awe,
alone in that tragic jungle:-
1. A South Sea Bridal.
2. Under the Ban.
3. Savao and Faavao.
4. Cries in the High Wood.
5. Rumour full of Tongues.
6. The Hour of Peril.
7. The Day of Vengeance.
It is very strange, very extravagant, I daresay; but it's
varied, and picturesque, and has a pretty love affair, and
ends well. Ulufanua is a lovely Samoan word, ulu=grove;
fanua=land; grove-land - 'the tops of the high trees.'
Savao, 'sacred to the wood,' and Faavao, 'wood-ways,' are the
names of two of the characters, Ulufanua the name of the
supposed island.
I am very tired, and rest off to-day from all but letters.
Fanny is quite done up; she could not sleep last night,
something it seemed like asthma - I trust not. I suppose
Lloyd will be about, so you can give him the benefit of this
long scrawl. Never say that I CAN'T write a letter, say that
I don't. - Yours ever, my dearest fellow,
R. L. S.
The guid wife had bread to bake, and she baked it in a pan,
O! But between whiles she was down with me weeding sensitive
in the paddock. The men have but now passed over it; I was
round in that very place to see the weeding was done
thoroughly, and already the reptile springs behind our heels.
Tuitui is a truly strange beast, and gives food for thought.
I am nearly sure - I cannot yet be quite, I mean to
experiment, when I am less on the hot chase of the beast -
that, even at the instant he shrivels up his leaves, he
strikes his prickles downward so as to catch the uprooting
finger; instinctive, say the gabies; but so is man's impulse
to strike out. One thing that takes and holds me is to see
the strange variation in the propagation of alarm among these
rooted beasts; at times it spreads to a radius (I speak by
the guess of the eye) of five or six inches; at times only
one individual plant appears frightened at a time. We tried
how long it took one to recover; 'tis a sanguine creature; it
is all abroad again before (I guess again) two minutes. It
is odd how difficult in this world it is to be armed. The
double armour of this plant betrays it. In a thick tuft,
where the leaves disappear, I thrust in my hand, and the bite
of the thorns betrays the topmost stem. In the open again,
and when I hesitate if it be clover, a touch on the leaves,
and its fine sense and retractile action betrays its identity
at once. Yet it has one gift incomparable. Rome had virtue
and knowledge; Rome perished. The sensitive plant has
indigestible seeds - so they say - and it will flourish for
ever. I give my advice thus to a young plant - have a strong
root, a weak stem, and an indigestible seed; so you will
outlast the eternal city, and your progeny will clothe
mountains, and the irascible planter will blaspheme in vain.
The weak point of tuitui is that its stem is strong.
Here beginneth the third lesson, which is not from the
planter but from a less estimable character, the writer of
I want you to understand about this South Sea Book. The job
is immense; I stagger under material. I have seen the first
big TACHE. It was necessary to see the smaller ones; the
letters were at my hand for the purpose, but I was not going
to lose this experience; and, instead of writing mere
letters, have poured out a lot of stuff for the book. How
this works and fits, time is to show. But I believe, in
time, I shall get the whole thing in form. Now, up to date,
that is all my design, and I beg to warn you till we have the
whole (or much) of the stuff together, you can hardly judge -
and I can hardly judge. Such a mass of stuff is to be
handled, if possible without repetition - so much foreign
matter to be introduced - if possible with perspicuity - and,
as much as can be, a spirit of narrative to be preserved.
You will find that come stronger as I proceed, and get the
explanations worked through. Problems of style are (as yet)
dirt under my feet; my problem is architectural, creative -
to get this stuff jointed and moving. If I can do that, I
will trouble you for style; anybody might write it, and it
would be splendid; well-engineered, the masses right, the
blooming thing travelling - twig?
This I wanted you to understand, for lots of the stuff sent
home is, I imagine, rot - and slovenly rot - and some of it
pompous rot; and I want you to understand it's a LAY-IN.
Soon, if the tide of poeshie continues, I'll send you a whole
lot to damn. You never said thank-you for the handsome
tribute addressed to you from Apemama; such is the gratitude
of the world to the God-sent poick. Well, well:- 'Vex not
thou the poick's mind, With thy coriaceous ingratitude, The
P. will be to your faults more than a little blind, And yours
is a far from handsome attitude.' Having thus dropped into
poetry in a spirit of friendship, I have the honour to
subscribe myself, Sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
I suppose by this you will have seen the lad - and his feet
will have been in the Monument - and his eyes beheld the face
of George. Well!
There is much eloquence in a well!
I am, Sir
The Epigrammatist
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I wanted to go out bright and early to go
on with my survey. You never heard of that. The world has
turned, and much water run under bridges, since I stopped my
diary. I have written six more chapters of the book, all
good I potently believe, and given up, as a deception of the
devil's, the High Woods. I have been once down to Apia, to a
huge native feast at Seumanutafa's, the chief of Apia. There
was a vast mass of food, crowds of people, the police
charging among them with whips, the whole in high good humour
on both sides; infinite noise; and a historic event - Mr.
Clarke, the missionary, and his wife, assisted at a native
dance. On my return from this function, I found work had
stopped; no more South Seas in my belly. Well, Henry had
cleared a great deal of our bush on a contract, and it ought
to be measured. I set myself to the task with a tape-line;
it seemed a dreary business; then I borrowed a prismatic
compass, and tackled the task afresh. I have no books; I had
not touched an instrument nor given a thought to the business
since the year of grace 1871; you can imagine with what
interest I sat down yesterday afternoon to reduce my
observations; five triangles I had taken; all five came
right, to my ineffable joy. Our dinner - the lowest we have
ever been - consisted of ONE AVOCADO PEAR between Fanny and
me, a ship's biscuit for the guidman, white bread for the
Missis, and red wine for the twa. No salt horse, even, in
all Vailima! After dinner Henry came, and I began to teach
him decimals; you wouldn't think I knew them myself after so
long desuetude!
I could not but wonder how Henry stands his evenings here;
the Polynesian loves gaiety - I feed him with decimals, the
mariner's compass, derivations, grammar, and the like;
delecting myself, after the manner of my race, MOULT
TRISTEMENT. I suck my paws; I live for my dexterities and by
my accomplishments; even my clumsinesses are my joy - my
woodcuts, my stumbling on the pipe, this surveying even - and
even weeding sensitive; anything to do with the mind, with
the eye, with the hand - with a part of ME; diversion flows
in these ways for the dreary man. But gaiety is what these
children want; to sit in a crowd, tell stories and pass
jests, to hear one another laugh and scamper with the girls.
It's good fun, too, I believe, but not for R. L. S., AETAT.
40. Which I am now past forty, Custodian, and not one penny
the worse that I can see; as amusable as ever; to be on board
ship is reward enough for me; give me the wages of going on -
in a schooner! Only, if ever I were gay, which I
misremember, I am gay no more. And here is poor Henry
passing his evenings on my intellectual husks, which the
professors masticated; keeping the accounts of the estate -
all wrong I have no doubt - I keep no check, beyond a very
rough one; marching in with a cloudy brow, and the day-book
under his arm; tackling decimals, coming with cases of
conscience - how would an English chief behave in such a
case? etc.; and, I am bound to say, on any glimmer of a jest,
lapsing into native hilarity as a tree straightens itself
after the wind is by. The other night I remembered my old
friend - I believe yours also - Scholastikos, and
administered the crow and the anchor - they were quite fresh
to Samoan ears (this implies a very early severance) - and I
thought the anchor would have made away with my Simele
Fanny's time, in this interval, has been largely occupied in
contending publicly with wild swine. We have a black sow; we
call her Jack Sheppard; impossible to confine her -
impossible also for her to be confined! To my sure knowledge
she has been in an interesting condition for longer than any
other sow in story; else she had long died the death; as soon
as she is brought to bed, she shall count her days. I
suppose that sow has cost us in days' labour from thirty to
fifty dollars; as many as eight boys (at a dollar a day) have
been twelve hours in chase of her. Now it is supposed that
Fanny has outwitted her; she grins behind broad planks in
what was once the cook-house. She is a wild pig; far
handsomer than any tame; and when she found the cook-house
was too much for her methods of evasion, she lay down on the
floor and refused food and drink for a whole Sunday. On
Monday morning she relapsed, and now eats and drinks like a
little man. I am reminded of an incident. Two Sundays ago,
the sad word was brought that the sow was out again; this
time she had carried another in her flight. Moors and I and
Fanny were strolling up to the garden, and there by the
waterside we saw the black sow, looking guilty. It seemed to
me beyond words; but Fanny's CRI DU COEUR was delicious: 'Gr-
r!' she cried; 'nobody loves you!'
I would I could tell you the moving story of our cart and
cart-horses; the latter are dapple-grey, about sixteen hands,
and of enormous substance; the former was a kind of red and
green shandry-dan with a driving bench; plainly unfit to
carry lumber or to face our road. (Remember that the last
third of my road, about a mile, is all made out of a bridletrack
by my boys - and my dollars.) It was supposed a white
man had been found - an ex-German artilleryman - to drive
this last; he proved incapable and drunken; the gallant
Henry, who had never driven before, and knew nothing about
horses - except the rats and weeds that flourish on the
islands - volunteered; Moors accepted, proposing to follow
and supervise: despatched his work and started after. No
cart! he hurried on up the road - no cart. Transfer the
scene to Vailima, where on a sudden to Fanny and me, the cart
appears, apparently at a hard gallop, some two hours before
it was expected; Henry radiantly ruling chaos from the bench.
It stopped: it was long before we had time to remark that the
axle was twisted like the letter L. Our first care was the
horses. There they stood, black with sweat, the sweat
raining from them - literally raining - their heads down,
their feet apart - and blood running thick from the nostrils
of the mare. We got out Fanny's under-clothes - couldn't
find anything else but our blankets - to rub them down, and
in about half an hour we had the blessed satisfaction to see
one after the other take a bite or two of grass. But it was
a toucher; a little more and these steeds would have been
Near a week elapsed, and no journal. On Monday afternoon,
Moors rode up and I rode down with him, dined, and went over
in the evening to the American Consulate; present, Consul-
General Sewall, Lieut. Parker and Mrs. Parker, Lafarge the
American decorator, Adams an American historian; we talked
late, and it was arranged I was to write up for Fanny, and we
should both dine on the morrow.
On the Friday, I was all forenoon in the Mission House,
lunched at the German Consulate, went on board the SPERBER
(German war ship) in the afternoon, called on my lawyer on my
way out to American Consulate, and talked till dinner time
with Adams, whom I am supplying with introductions and
information for Tahiti and the Marquesas. Fanny arrived a
wreck, and had to lie down. The moon rose, one day past
full, and we dined in the verandah, a good dinner on the
whole; talk with Lafarge about art and the lovely dreams of
art students. Remark by Adams, which took me briskly home to
the Monument - 'I only liked one YOUNG woman - and that was
Mrs. Procter.' Henry James would like that. Back by
moonlight in the consulate boat - Fanny being too tired to
walk - to Moors's. Saturday, I left Fanny to rest, and was
off early to the Mission, where the politics are thrilling
just now. The native pastors (to every one's surprise) have
moved of themselves in the matter of the native dances,
desiring the restrictions to be removed, or rather to be made
dependent on the character of the dance. Clarke, who had
feared censure and all kinds of trouble, is, of course,
rejoicing greatly. A characteristic feature: the argument of
the pastors was handed in in the form of a fictitious
narrative of the voyage of one Mr. Pye, an English traveller,
and his conversation with a chief; there are touches of
satire in this educational romance. Mr. Pye, for instance,
admits that he knows nothing about the Bible. At the Mission
I was sought out by Henry in a devil of an agitation; he has
been made the victim of a forgery - a crime hitherto unknown
in Samoa. I had to go to Folau, the chief judge here, in the
matter. Folau had never heard of the offence, and begged to
know what was the punishment; there may be lively times in
forgery ahead. It seems the sort of crime to tickle a
Polynesian. After lunch - you can see what a busy three days
I am describing - we set off to ride home. My Jack was full
of the devil of corn and too much grass, and no work. I had
to ride ahead and leave Fanny behind. He is a most gallant
little rascal is my Jack, and takes the whole way as hard as
the rider pleases. Single incident: half-way up, I find my
boys upon the road and stop and talk with Henry in his
character of ganger, as long as Jack will suffer me. Fanny
drones in after; we make a show of eating - or I do - she
goes to bed about half-past six! I write some verses, read
Irving's WASHINGTON, and follow about half-past eight. O,
one thing more I did, in a prophetic spirit. I had made sure
Fanny was not fit to be left alone, and wrote before turning
in a letter to Chalmers, telling him I could not meet him in
Auckland at this time. By eleven at night, Fanny got me
wakened - she had tried twice in vain - and I found her very
bad. Thence till three, we laboured with mustard poultices,
laudanum, soda and ginger - Heavens! wasn't it cold; the land
breeze was as cold as a river; the moon was glorious in the
paddock, and the great boughs and the black shadows of our
trees were inconceivable. But it was a poor time.
Sunday morning found Fanny, of course, a complete wreck, and
myself not very brilliant. Paul had to go to Vailele RE
cocoa-nuts; it was doubtful if he could be back by dinner;
never mind, said I, I'll take dinner when you return. Off
set Paul. I did an hour's work, and then tackled the house
work. I did it beautiful: the house was a picture, it
resplended of propriety. Presently Mr. Moors' Andrew rode
up; I heard the doctor was at the Forest House and sent a
note to him; and when he came, I heard my wife telling him
she had been in bed all day, and that was why the house was
so dirty! Was it grateful? Was it politic? Was it TRUE? -
Enough! In the interval, up marched little L. S., one of my
neighbours, all in his Sunday white linens; made a fine
salute, and demanded the key of the kitchen in German and
English. And he cooked dinner for us, like a little man, and
had it on the table and the coffee ready by the hour. Paul
had arranged me this surprise. Some time later, Paul
returned himself with a fresh surprise on hand; he was almost
sober; nothing but a hazy eye distinguished him from Paul of
the week days: VIVAT!
On the evening I cannot dwell. All the horses got out of the
paddock, went across, and smashed my neighbour's garden into
a big hole. How little the amateur conceives a farmer's
troubles. I went out at once with a lantern, staked up a gap
in the hedge, was kicked at by a chestnut mare, who
straightway took to the bush; and came back. A little after,
they had found another gap, and the crowd were all abroad
again. What has happened to our own garden nobody yet knows.
Fanny had a fair night, and we are both tolerable this
morning, only the yoke of correspondence lies on me heavy. I
beg you will let this go on to my mother. I got such a good
start in your letter, that I kept on at it, and I have
neither time nor energy for more.
Yours ever,
R. L. S.
I was called from my letters by the voice of Mr. -, who had
just come up with a load of wood, roaring, 'Henry! Henry!
Bring six boys!' I saw there was something wrong, and ran
out. The cart, half unloaded, had upset with the mare in the
shafts; she was all cramped together and all tangled up in
harness and cargo, the off shaft pushing her over, Mr. -
holding her up by main strength, and right along-side of her
- where she must fall if she went down - a deadly stick of a
tree like a lance. I could not but admire the wisdom and
faith of this great brute; I never saw the riding-horse that
would not have lost its life in such a situation; but the
cart-elephant patiently waited and was saved. It was a
stirring three minutes, I can tell you.
I forgot in talking of Saturday to tell of one incident which
will particularly interest my mother. I met Dr. D. from
Savaii, and had an age-long talk about Edinburgh folk; it was
very pleasant. He has been studying in Edinburgh, along with
his son; a pretty relation. He told me he knew nobody but
college people: 'I was altogether a student,' he said with
glee. He seems full of cheerfulness and thick-set energy. I
feel as if I could put him in a novel with effect; and ten to
one, if I know more of him, the image will be only blurred.
I should have told you yesterday that all my boys were got up
for their work in moustaches and side-whiskers of some sort
of blacking - I suppose wood-ash. It was a sight of joy to
see them return at night, axe on shoulder, feigning to march
like soldiers, a choragus with a loud voice singing out,
'March-step! March-step!' in imperfect recollection of some
Fanny seems much revived.
R. L. S.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I do not say my Jack is anything
extraordinary; he is only an island horse; and the profane
might call him a Punch; and his face is like a donkey's; and
natives have ridden him, and he has no mouth in consequence,
and occasionally shies. But his merits are equally
surprising; and I don't think I should ever have known Jack's
merits if I had not been riding up of late on moonless
nights. Jack is a bit of a dandy; he loves to misbehave in a
gallant manner, above all on Apia Street, and when I stop to
speak to people, they say (Dr. Stuebel the German consul said
about three days ago), 'O what a wild horse! it cannot be
safe to ride him.' Such a remark is Jack's reward, and
represents his ideal of fame. Now when I start out of Apia
on a dark night, you should see my changed horse; at a fast
steady walk, with his head down, and sometimes his nose to
the ground - when he wants to do that, he asks for his head
with a little eloquent polite movement indescribable - he
climbs the long ascent and threads the darkest of the wood.
The first night I came it was starry; and it was singular to
see the starlight drip down into the crypt of the wood, and
shine in the open end of the road, as bright as moonlight at
home; but the crypt itself was proof, blackness lived in it.
The next night it was raining. We left the lights of Apia
and passed into limbo. Jack finds a way for himself, but he
does not calculate for my height above the saddle; and I am
directed forward, all braced up for a crouch and holding my
switch upright in front of me. It is curiously interesting.
In the forest, the dead wood is phosphorescent; some nights
the whole ground is strewn with it, so that it seems like a
grating over a pale hell; doubtless this is one of the things
that feed the night fears of the natives; and I am free to
confess that in a night of trackless darkness where all else
is void, these pallid IGNES SUPPOSITI have a fantastic
appearance, rather bogey even. One night, when it was very
dark, a man had put out a little lantern by the wayside to
show the entrance to his ground. I saw the light, as I
thought, far ahead, and supposed it was a pedestrian coming
to meet me; I was quite taken by surprise when it struck in
my face and passed behind me. Jack saw it, and he was
appalled; do you think he thought of shying? No, sir, not in
the dark; in the dark Jack knows he is on duty; and he went
past that lantern steady and swift; only, as he went, he
groaned and shuddered. For about 2500 of Jack's steps we
only pass one house - that where the lantern was; and about
1500 of these are in the darkness of the pit. But now the
moon is on tap again, and the roads lighted.
I have been exploring up the Vaituliga; see your map. It
comes down a wonderful fine glen; at least 200 feet of cliffs
on either hand, winding like a corkscrew, great forest trees
filling it. At the top there ought to be a fine double fall;
but the stream evades it by a fault and passes underground.
Above the fall it runs (at this season) full and very gaily
in a shallow valley, some hundred yards before the head of
the glen. Its course is seen full of grasses, like a flooded
meadow; that is the sink! beyond the grave of the grasses,
the bed lies dry. Near this upper part there is a great show
of ruinous pig-walls; a village must have stood near by.
To walk from our house to Wreck Hill (when the path is buried
in fallen trees) takes one about half an hour, I think; to
return, not more than twenty minutes; I daresay fifteen.
Hence I should guess it was three-quarters of a mile. I had
meant to join on my explorations passing eastward by the
sink; but, Lord! how it rains.
I went out this morning with a pocket compass and walked in a
varying direction, perhaps on an average S. by W., 1754
paces. Then I struck into the bush, N.W. by N., hoping to
strike the Vaituliga above the falls. Now I have it plotted
out I see I should have gone W. or even W. by S.; but it is
not easy to guess. For 600 weary paces I struggled through
the bush, and then came on the stream below the gorge, where
it was comparatively easy to get down to it. In the place
where I struck it, it made cascades about a little isle, and
was running about N.E., 20 to 30 feet wide, as deep as to my
knee, and piercing cold. I tried to follow it down, and keep
the run of its direction and my paces; but when I was wading
to the knees and the waist in mud, poison brush, and rotted
wood, bound hand and foot in lianas, shovelled
unceremoniously off the one shore and driven to try my luck
upon the other - I saw I should have hard enough work to get
my body down, if my mind rested. It was a damnable walk;
certainly not half a mile as the crow flies, but a real
bucketer for hardship. Once I had to pass the stream where
it flowed between banks about three feet high. To get the
easier down, I swung myself by a wild-cocoanut - (so called,
it bears bunches of scarlet nutlets) - which grew upon the
brink. As I so swung, I received a crack on the head that
knocked me all abroad. Impossible to guess what tree had
taken a shy at me. So many towered above, one over the
other, and the missile, whatever it was, dropped in the
stream and was gone before I had recovered my wits. (I
scarce know what I write, so hideous a Niagara of rain roars,
shouts, and demonizes on the iron roof - it is pitch dark too
- the lamp lit at 5!) It was a blessed thing when I struck
my own road; and I got home, neat for lunch time, one of the
most wonderful mud statues ever witnessed. In the afternoon
I tried again, going up the other path by the garden, but was
early drowned out; came home, plotted out what I had done,
and then wrote this truck to you.
Fanny has been quite ill with ear-ache. She won't go, hating
the sea at this wild season; I don't like to leave her; so it
drones on, steamer after steamer, and I guess it'll end by no
one going at all. She is in a dreadful misfortune at this
hour; a case of kerosene having burst in the kitchen. A
little while ago it was the carpenter's horse that trod in a
nest of fourteen eggs, and made an omelette of our hopes.
The farmer's lot is not a happy one. And it looks like some
real uncompromising bad weather too. I wish Fanny's ear were
well. Think of parties in Monuments! think of me in
Skerryvore, and now of this. It don't look like a part of
the same universe to me. Work is quite laid aside; I have
worked myself right out.
Yesterday, who could write? My wife near crazy with earache;
the rain descending in white crystal rods and playing
hell's tattoo, like a TUTTI of battering rams, on our sheetiron
roof; the wind passing high overhead with a strange dumb
mutter, or striking us full, so that all the huge trees in
the paddock cried aloud, and wrung their hands, and
brandished their vast arms. The horses stood in the shed
like things stupid. The sea and the flagship lying on the
jaws of the bay vanished in sheer rain. All day it lasted; I
locked up my papers in the iron box, in case it was a
hurricane, and the house might go. We went to bed with
mighty uncertain feelings; far more than on shipboard, where
you have only drowning ahead - whereas here you have a smash
of beams, a shower of sheet-iron, and a blind race in the
dark and through a whirlwind for the shelter of an unfinished
stable - and my wife with ear-ache! Well, well, this
morning, we had word from Apia; a hurricane was looked for,
the ships were to leave the bay by 10 A.M.; it is now 3.30,
and the flagship is still a fixture, and the wind round in
the blessed east, so I suppose the danger is over. But
heaven is still laden; the day dim, with frequent rattling
bucketfuls of rain; and just this moment (as I write) a
squall went overhead, scarce striking us, with that singular,
solemn noise of its passage, which is to me dreadful. I have
always feared the sound of wind beyond everything. In my
hell it would always blow a gale.
I have been all day correcting proofs, and making out a new
plan for our house. The other was too dear to be built now,
and it was a hard task to make a smaller house that would
suffice for the present, and not be a mere waste of money in
the future. I believe I have succeeded; I have taken care of
my study anyway.
Two favours I want to ask of you. First, I wish you to get
'Pioneering in New Guinea,' by J. Chalmers. It's a
missionary book, and has less pretensions to be literature
than Spurgeon's sermons. Yet I think even through that, you
will see some of the traits of the hero that wrote it; a man
that took me fairly by storm for the most attractive, simple,
brave, and interesting man in the whole Pacific. He is away
now to go up the Fly River; a desperate venture, it is
thought; he is quite a Livingstone card.
Second, try and keep yourself free next winter; and if my
means can be stretched so far, I'll come to Egypt and we'll
meet at Shepheard's Hotel, and you'll put me in my place,
which I stand in need of badly by this time. Lord, what
bully times! I suppose I'll come per British Asia, or
whatever you call it, and avoid all cold, and might be in
Egypt about November as ever was - eleven months from now or
rather less. But do not let us count our chickens.
Last night three piglings were stolen from one of our pigpens.
The great Lafaele appeared to my wife uneasy, so she
engaged him in conversation on the subject, and played upon
him the following engaging trick. You advance your two
forefingers towards the sitter's eyes; he closes them,
whereupon you substitute (on his eyelids) the fore and middle
fingers of the left hand; and with your right (which he
supposes engaged) you tap him on the head and back. When you
let him open his eyes, he sees you withdrawing the two
forefingers. 'What that?' asked Lafaele. 'My devil,' says
Fanny. 'I wake um, my devil. All right now. He go catch
the man that catch my pig.' About an hour afterwards,
Lafaele came for further particulars. 'O, all right,' my
wife says. 'By and by, that man he sleep, devil go sleep
same place. By and by, that man plenty sick. I no care.
What for he take my pig?' Lafaele cares plenty; I don't
think he is the man, though he may be; but he knows him, and
most likely will eat some of that pig to-night. He will not
eat with relish.
It cleared up suddenly after dinner, and my wife and I
saddled up and off to Apia, whence we did not return till
yesterday morning. Christmas Day I wish you could have seen
our party at table. H. J. Moors at one end with my wife, I
at the other with Mrs. M., between us two native women,
Carruthers the lawyer, Moors's two shop-boys - Walters and A.
M. the quadroon - and the guests of the evening, Shirley
Baker, the defamed and much-accused man of Tonga, and his
son, with the artificial joint to his arm - where the
assassins shot him in shooting at his father. Baker's
appearance is not unlike John Bull on a cartoon; he is highly
interesting to speak to, as I had expected; I found he and I
had many common interests, and were engaged in puzzling over
many of the same difficulties. After dinner it was quite
pretty to see our Christmas party, it was so easily pleased
and prettily behaved. In the morning I should say I had been
to lunch at the German consulate, where I had as usual a very
pleasant time. I shall miss Dr. Stuebel much when he leaves,
and when Adams and Lafarge go also, it will be a great blow.
I am getting spoiled with all this good society.
On Friday morning, I had to be at my house affairs before
seven; and they kept me in Apia till past ten, disputing, and
consulting about brick and stone and native and hydraulic
lime, and cement and sand, and all sorts of otiose details
about the chimney - just what I fled from in my father's
office twenty years ago; I should have made a languid
engineer. Rode up with the carpenter. Ah, my wicked Jack!
on Christmas Eve, as I was taking the saddle bag off, he
kicked at me, and fetched me too, right on the shin. On
Friday, being annoyed at the carpenter's horse having a
longer trot, he uttered a shrill cry and tried to bite him!
Alas, alas, these are like old days; my dear Jack is a Bogue,
but I cannot strangle Jack into submission.
I have given up the big house for just now; we go ahead right
away with a small one, which should be ready in two months,
and I suppose will suffice for just now.
O I know I haven't told you about our AITU, have I? It is a
lady, AITU FAFINE: she lives on the mountain-side; her
presence is heralded by the sound of a gust of wind; a sound
very common in the high woods; when she catches you, I do not
know what happens; but in practice she is avoided, so I
suppose she does more than pass the time of day. The great
AITU SAUMAI-AFE was once a living woman; and became an AITU,
no one understands how; she lives in a stream at the wellhead,
her hair is red, she appears as a lovely young lady,
her bust particularly admired, to handsome young men; these
die, her love being fatal; - as a handsome youth she has been
known to court damsels with the like result, but this is very
rare; as an old crone she goes about and asks for water, and
woe to them who are uncivil! SAUMAI-AFE means literally,
'Come here a thousand!' A good name for a lady of her
manners. My AITU FAFINE does not seem to be in the same line
of business. It is unsafe to be a handsome youth in Samoa; a
young man died from her favours last month - so we said on
this side of the island; on the other, where he died, it was
not so certain. I, for one, blame it on Madam SAUMAI-AFE
without hesitation.
Example of the farmer's sorrows. I slipped out on the
balcony a moment ago. It is a lovely morning, cloudless,
smoking hot, the breeze not yet arisen. Looking west, in
front of our new house, I saw, two heads of Indian corn
wagging, and the rest and all nature stock still. As I
looked, one of the stalks subsided and disappeared. I dashed
out to the rescue; two small pigs were deep in the grass -
quite hid till within a few yards - gently but swiftly
demolishing my harvest. Never be a farmer.
12.30 P.M.
I while away the moments of digestion by drawing you a
faithful picture of my morning. When I had done writing as
above it was time to clean our house. When I am working, it
falls on my wife alone, but to-day we had it between us; she
did the bedroom, I the sitting-room, in fifty-seven minutes
of really most unpalatable labour. Then I changed every
stitch, for I was wet through, and sat down and played on my
pipe till dinner was ready, mighty pleased to be in a mildly
habitable spot once more. The house had been neglected for
near a week, and was a hideous spot; my wife's ear and our
visit to Apia being the causes: our Paul we prefer not to see
upon that theatre, and God knows he has plenty to do
I am glad to look out of my back door and see the boys
smoothing the foundations of the new house; this is all very
jolly, but six months of it has satisfied me; we have too
many things for such close quarters; to work in the midst of
all the myriad misfortunes of the planter's life, seated in a
Dyonisius' (can't spell him) ear, whence I catch every
complaint, mishap and contention, is besides the devil; and
the hope of a cave of my own inspires me with lust. O to be
able to shut my own door and make my own confusion! O to
have the brown paper and the matches and 'make a hell of my
own' once more!
I do not bother you with all my troubles in these
outpourings; the troubles of the farmer are inspiriting -
they are like difficulties out hunting - a fellow rages at
the time and rejoices to recall and to commemorate them. My
troubles have been financial. It is hard to arrange wisely
interests so distributed. America, England, Samoa, Sydney,
everywhere I have an end of liability hanging out and some
shelf of credit hard by; and to juggle all these and build a
dwelling-place here, and check expense - a thing I am ill
fitted for - you can conceive what a nightmare it is at
times. Then God knows I have not been idle. But since THE
MASTER nothing has come to raise any coins. I believe the
springs are dry at home, and now I am worked out, and can no
more at all. A holiday is required.
DEC. 28TH. I have got unexpectedly to work again, and feel
quite dandy. Good-bye.
R. L. S.
JAN. 17TH, 1891.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - The Faamasino Sili, or Chief Justice, to
speak your low language, has arrived. I had ridden down with
Henry and Lafaele; the sun was down, the night was close at
hand, so we rode fast; just as I came to the corner of the
road before Apia, I heard a gun fire; and lo, there was a
great crowd at the end of the pier, and the troops out, and a
chief or two in the height of Samoa finery, and Seumanu
coming in his boat (the oarsmen all in uniform), bringing the
Faamasino Sili sure enough. It was lucky he was no longer;
the natives would not have waited many weeks. But think of
it, as I sat in the saddle at the outside of the crowd
(looking, the English consul said, as if I were commanding
the manoeuvres), I was nearly knocked down by a stampede of
the three consuls; they had been waiting their guest at the
Matafele end, and some wretched intrigue among the whites had
brought him to Apia, and the consuls had to run all the
length of the town and come too late.
The next day was a long one; I was at a marriage of G. the
banker to Fanua, the virgin of Apia. Bride and bridesmaids
were all in the old high dress; the ladies were all native;
the men, with the exception of Seumanu, all white.
It was quite a pleasant party, and while we were writing, we
had a bird's-eye view of the public reception of the Chief
Justice. The best part of it were some natives in war array;
with blacked faces, turbans, tapa kilts, and guns, they
looked very manly and purposelike. No, the best part was
poor old drunken Joe, the Portuguese boatman, who seemed to
think himself specially charged with the reception, and ended
by falling on his knees before the Chief Justice on the end
of the pier and in full view of the whole town and bay. The
natives pelted him with rotten bananas; how the Chief Justice
took it I was too far off to see; but it was highly absurd.
I have commemorated my genial hopes for the regimen of the
Faamasino Sili in the following canine verses, which, if you
at all guess how to read them, are very pretty in movement,
and (unless he be a mighty good man) too true in sense.
We're quarrelling, the villages, we've beaten the wooden
Sa femisai o nu'u, sa taia o pate,
Is expounded there by the justice,
Ua Atuatuvale a le faamasino e,
The chief justice, the terrified justice,
Le faamasino sili, le faamasino se,
Is on the point of running away the justice,
O le a solasola le faamasino e,
The justice denied any influence, the terrified justice,
O le faamasino le ai a, le faamasino se,
O le a solasola le faamasino e.
Well, after this excursion into tongues that have never been
alive - though I assure you we have one capital book in the
language, a book of fables by an old missionary of the
unpromising name of Pratt, which is simply the best and the
most literary version of the fables known to me. I suppose I
should except La Fontaine, but L. F. takes a long time; these
are brief as the books of our childhood, and full of wit and
literary colour; and O, Colvin, what a tongue it would be to
write, if one only knew it - and there were only readers.
Its curse in common use is an incredible left-handed
wordiness; but in the hands of a man like Pratt it is
succinct as Latin, compact of long rolling polysyllables and
little and often pithy particles, and for beauty of sound a
dream. Listen, I quote from Pratt - this is good Samoan, not
canine -
O le afa,
1 2 3
ua taalili ai
le ulu vao,
ua pa mai
le faititili.
1 almost WA, 2 the two A'S just distinguished, 3 the AI is
practically suffixed to the verb, 4 almost VOW. The
excursion has prolonged itself.
I started by the LUBECK to meet Lloyd and my mother; there
were many reasons for and against; the main reason against
was the leaving of Fanny alone in her blessed cabin, which
has been somewhat remedied by my carter, Mr. -, putting up in
the stable and messing with her; but perhaps desire of change
decided me not well, though I do think I ought to see an
oculist, being very blind indeed, and sometimes unable to
read. Anyway I left, the only cabin passenger, four and a
kid in the second cabin, and a dear voyage it had like to
have proved. Close to Fiji (choose a worse place on the map)
we broke our shaft early one morning; and when or where we
might expect to fetch land or meet with any ship, I would
like you to tell me. The Pacific is absolutely desert. I
have sailed there now some years; and scarce ever seen a ship
except in port or close by; I think twice. It was the
hurricane season besides, and hurricane waters. Well, our
chief engineer got the shaft - it was the middle crank shaft
- mended; thrice it was mended, and twice broke down; but now
keeps up - only we dare not stop, for it is almost impossible
to start again. The captain in the meanwhile crowded her
with sail; fifteen sails in all, every stay being gratified
with a stay-sail, a boat-boom sent aloft for a maintopgallant
yard, and the derrick of a crane brought in service
as bowsprit. All the time we have had a fine, fair wind and
a smooth sea; to-day at noon our run was 203 miles (if you
please!), and we are within some 360 miles of Sydney.
Probably there has never been a more gallant success; and I
can say honestly it was well worked for. No flurry, no high
words, no long faces; only hard work and honest thought; a
pleasant, manly business to be present at. All the chances
were we might have been six weeks - ay, or three months at
sea - or never turned up at all, and now it looks as though
we should reach our destination some five days too late.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - The JANET NICOLL stuff was rather worse
than I had looked for; you have picked out all that is fit to
stand, bar two others (which I don't dislike) - the Port of
Entry and the House of Temoana; that is for a present
opinion; I may condemn these also ere I have done. By this
time you should have another Marquesan letter, the worst of
the lot, I think; and seven Paumotu letters, which are not
far out of the vein, as I wish it; I am in hopes the Hawaiian
stuff is better yet: time will show, and time will make
perfect. Is something of this sort practicable for the
'Tis a first shot concocted this morning in my berth: I had
always before been trying it in English, which insisted on
being either insignificant or fulsome: I cannot think of a
better word than COMES, there being not the shadow of a Latin
book on board; yet sure there is some other. Then VIATOR
(though it SOUNDS all right) is doubtful; it has too much,
perhaps, the sense of wayfarer? Last, will it mark
sufficiently that I mean my wife? And first, how about
blunders? I scarce wish it longer.
Have had a swingeing sharp attack in Sydney; beating the
fields for two nights, Saturday and Sunday. Wednesday was
brought on board, TEL QUEL, a wonderful wreck; and now,
Wednesday week, am a good deal picked up, but yet not quite a
Samson, being still groggy afoot and vague in the head. My
chess, for instance, which is usually a pretty strong game,
and defies all rivalry aboard, is vacillating, devoid of
resource and observation, and hitherto not covered with
customary laurels. As for work, it is impossible. We shall
be in the saddle before long, no doubt, and the pen once more
couched. You must not expect a letter under these
circumstances, but be very thankful for a note. Once at
Samoa, I shall try to resume my late excellent habits, and
delight you with journals, you unaccustomed, I unaccustomed;
but it is never too late to mend.
It is vastly annoying that I cannot go even to Sydney without
an attack; and heaven knows my life was anodyne. I only once
dined with anybody; at the club with Wise; worked all morning
- a terrible dead pull; a month only produced the imperfect
embryos of two chapters; lunched in the boarding-house,
played on my pipe; went out and did some of my messages;
dined at a French restaurant, and returned to play draughts,
whist, or Van John with my family. This makes a cheery life
after Samoa; but it isn't what you call burning the candle at
both ends, is it? (It appears to me not one word of this
letter will be legible by the time I am done with it, this
dreadful ink rubs off.) I have a strange kind of novel under
construction; it begins about 1660 and ends 1830, or perhaps
I may continue it to 1875 or so, with another life. One,
two, three, four, five, six generations, perhaps seven,
figure therein; two of my old stories, 'Delafield' and
'Shovel,' are incorporated; it is to be told in the third
person, with some of the brevity of history, some of the
detail of romance. THE SHOVELS OF NEWTON FRENCH will be the
name. The idea is an old one; it was brought to birth by an
accident; a friend in the islands who picked up F. Jenkin,
read a part, and said: 'Do you know, that's a strange book?
I like it; I don't believe the public will; but I like it.'
He thought it was a novel! 'Very well,' said I, 'we'll see
whether the public will like it or not; they shall have the
Yours ever,
R. L. S.
MY DEAR S. C., - You probably expect that now I am back at
Vailima I shall resume the practice of the diary letter. A
good deal is changed. We are more; solitude does not attend
me as before; the night is passed playing Van John for
shells; and, what is not less important, I have just
recovered from a severe illness, and am easily tired.
I will give you to-day. I sleep now in one of the lower
rooms of the new house, where my wife has recently joined me.
We have two beds, an empty case for a table, a chair, a tin
basin, a bucket and a jug; next door in the dining-room, the
carpenters camp on the floor, which is covered with their
mosquito nets. Before the sun rises, at 5.45 or 5.50, Paul
brings me tea, bread, and a couple of eggs; and by about six
I am at work. I work in bed - my bed is of mats, no
mattress, sheets, or filth - mats, a pillow, and a blanket -
and put in some three hours. It was 9.5 this morning when I
set off to the stream-side to my weeding; where I toiled,
manuring the ground with the best enricher, human sweat, till
the conch-shell was blown from our verandah at 10.30. At
eleven we dine; about half-past twelve I tried (by exception)
to work again, could make nothing on't, and by one was on my
way to the weeding, where I wrought till three. Half-past
five is our next meal, and I read Flaubert's Letters till the
hour came round; dined, and then, Fanny having a cold, and I
being tired, came over to my den in the unfinished house,
where I now write to you, to the tune of the carpenters'
voices, and by the light - I crave your pardon - by the
twilight of three vile candles filtered through the medium of
my mosquito bar. Bad ink being of the party, I write quite
blindfold, and can only hope you may be granted to read that
which I am unable to see while writing.
I said I was tired; it is a mild phrase; my back aches like
toothache; when I shut my eyes to sleep, I know I shall see
before them - a phenomenon to which both Fanny and I are
quite accustomed - endless vivid deeps of grass and weed,
each plant particular and distinct, so that I shall lie inert
in body, and transact for hours the mental part of my day
business, choosing the noxious from the useful. And in my
dreams I shall be hauling on recalcitrants, and suffering
stings from nettles, stabs from citron thorns, fiery bites
from ants, sickening resistances of mud and slime, evasions
of slimy roots, dead weight of heat, sudden puffs of air,
sudden starts from bird-calls in the contiguous forest - some
mimicking my name, some laughter, some the signal of a
whistle, and living over again at large the business of my
Though I write so little, I pass all my hours of field-work
in continual converse and imaginary correspondence. I scarce
pull up a weed, but I invent a sentence on the matter to
yourself; it does not get written; AUTANT EN EMPORTENT LES
VENTS; but the intent is there, and for me (in some sort) the
companionship. To-day, for instance, we had a great talk. I
was toiling, the sweat dripping from my nose, in the hot fit
after a squall of rain: methought you asked me - frankly, was
I happy. Happy (said I); I was only happy once; that was at
Hyeres; it came to an end from a variety of reasons, decline
of health, change of place, increase of money, age with his
stealing steps; since then, as before then, I know not what
it means. But I know pleasure still; pleasure with a
thousand faces, and none perfect, a thousand tongues all
broken, a thousand hands, and all of them with scratching
nails. High among these I place this delight of weeding out
here alone by the garrulous water, under the silence of the
high wood, broken by incongruous sounds of birds. And take
my life all through, look at it fore and back, and upside
down, - though I would very fain change myself - I would not
change my circumstances, unless it were to bring you here.
And yet God knows perhaps this intercourse of writing serves
as well; and I wonder, were you here indeed, would I commune
so continually with the thought of you. I say 'I wonder' for
a form; I know, and I know I should not.
So far, and much further, the conversation went, while I
groped in slime after viscous roots, nursing and sparing
little spears of grass, and retreating (even with outcry)
from the prod of the wild lime. I wonder if any one had ever
the same attitude to Nature as I hold, and have held for so
long? This business fascinates me like a tune or a passion;
yet all the while I thrill with a strong distaste. The
horror of the thing, objective and subjective, is always
present to my mind; the horror of creeping things, a
superstitious horror of the void and the powers about me, the
horror of my own devastation and continual murders. The life
of the plants comes through my fingertips, their struggles go
to my heart like supplications. I feel myself bloodboltered;
then I look back on my cleared grass, and count
myself an ally in a fair quarrel, and make stout my heart.
It is but a little while since I lay sick in Sydney, beating
the fields about the navy and Dean Swift and Dryden's Latin
hymns; judge if I love this reinvigorating climate, where I
can already toil till my head swims and every string in the
poor jumping Jack (as he now lies in bed) aches with a kind
of yearning strain, difficult to suffer in quiescence.
As for my damned literature, God knows what a business it is,
grinding along without a scrap of inspiration or a note of
style. But it has to be ground, and the mill grinds
exceeding slowly though not particularly small. The last two
chapters have taken me considerably over a month, and they
are still beneath pity. This I cannot continue, time not
sufficing; and the next will just have to be worse. All the
good I can express is just this; some day, when style
revisits me, they will be excellent matter to rewrite. Of
course, my old cure of a change of work would probably
answer, but I cannot take it now. The treadmill turns; and,
with a kind of desperate cheerfulness, I mount the idle
stair. I haven't the least anxiety about the book; unless I
die, I shall find the time to make it good; but the Lord
deliver me from the thought of the Letters! However, the
Lord has other things on hand; and about six to-morrow, I
shall resume the consideration practically, and face (as best
I may) the fact of my incompetence and disaffection to the
task. Toil I do not spare; but fortune refuses me success.
We can do more, Whatever-his-name-was, we can deserve it.
But my misdesert began long since, by the acceptation of a
bargain quite unsuitable to all my methods.
To-day I have had a queer experience. My carter has from the
first been using my horses for his own ends; when I left for
Sydney, I put him on his honour to cease, and my back was
scarce turned ere he was forfeit. I have only been waiting
to discharge him; and to-day an occasion arose. I am so much
THE OLD MAN VIRULENT, so readily stumble into anger, that I
gave a deal of consideration to my bearing, and decided at
last to imitate that of the late -. Whatever he might have
to say, this eminently effective controversialist maintained
a frozen demeanour and a jeering smile. The frozen demeanour
is beyond my reach; but I could try the jeering smile; did
so, perceived its efficacy, kept in consequence my temper,
and got rid of my friend, myself composed and smiling still,
he white and shaking like an aspen. He could explain
everything; I said it did not interest me. He said he had
enemies; I said nothing was more likely. He said he was
calumniated; with all my heart, said I, but there are so many
liars, that I find it safer to believe them. He said, in
justice to himself, he must explain: God forbid I should
interfere with you, said I, with the same factitious grin,
but it can change nothing. So I kept my temper, rid myself
of an unfaithful servant, found a method of conducting
similar interviews in the future, and fell in my own liking.
One thing more: I learned a fresh tolerance for the dead -;
he too had learned - perhaps had invented - the trick of this
manner; God knows what weakness, what instability of feeling,
lay beneath. CE QUE C'EST QUE DE NOUS! poor human nature;
that at past forty I must adjust this hateful mask for the
first time, and rejoice to find it effective; that the effort
of maintaining an external smile should confuse and embitter
a man's soul.
To-day I have not weeded; I have written instead from six
till eleven, from twelve till two; with the interruption of
the interview aforesaid; a damned letter is written for the
third time; I dread to read it, for I dare not give it a
fourth chance - unless it be very bad indeed. Now I write
you from my mosquito curtain, to the song of saws and planes
and hammers, and wood clumping on the floor above; in a day
of heavenly brightness; a bird twittering near by; my eye,
through the open door, commanding green meads, two or three
forest trees casting their boughs against the sky, a forestclad
mountain-side beyond, and close in by the door-jamb a
nick of the blue Pacific. It is March in England, bleak
March, and I lie here with the great sliding doors wide open
in an undershirt and p'jama trousers, and melt in the closure
of mosquito bars, and burn to be out in the breeze. A few
torn clouds - not white, the sun has tinged them a warm pink
- swim in heaven. In which blessed and fair day, I have to
make faces and speak bitter words to a man - who has deceived
me, it is true - but who is poor, and older than I, and a
kind of a gentleman too. On the whole, I prefer the massacre
of weeds.
When I had done talking to you yesterday, I played on my pipe
till the conch sounded, then went over to the old house for
dinner, and had scarce risen from table ere I was submerged
with visitors. The first of these despatched, I spent the
rest of the evening going over the Samoan translation of my
BOTTLE IMP with Claxton the missionary; then to bed, but
being upset, I suppose, by these interruptions, and having
gone all day without my weeding, not to sleep. For hours I
lay awake and heard the rain fall, and saw faint, far-away
lightning over the sea, and wrote you long letters which I
scorn to reproduce. This morning Paul was unusually early;
the dawn had scarce begun when he appeared with the tray and
lit my candle; and I had breakfasted and read (with
indescribable sinkings) the whole of yesterday's work before
the sun had risen. Then I sat and thought, and sat and
better thought. It was not good enough, nor good; it was as
slack as journalism, but not so inspired; it was excellent
stuff misused, and the defects stood gross on it like humps
upon a camel. But could I, in my present disposition, do
much more with it? in my present pressure for time, were I
not better employed doing another one about as ill, than
making this some thousandth fraction better? Yes, I thought;
and tried the new one, and behold, I could do nothing: my
head swims, words do not come to me, nor phrases, and I
accepted defeat, packed up my traps, and turned to
communicate the failure to my esteemed correspondent. I
think it possible I overworked yesterday. Well, we'll see
to-morrow - perhaps try again later. It is indeed the hope
of trying later that keeps me writing to you. If I take to
my pipe, I know myself - all is over for the morning.
Hurray, I'll correct proofs!
After I finished on Sunday I passed a miserable day; went out
weeding, but could not find peace. I do not like to steal my
dinner, unless I have given myself a holiday in a canonical
manner; and weeding after all is only fun, the amount of its
utility small, and the thing capable of being done faster and
nearly as well by a hired boy. In the evening Sewall came up
(American consul) and proposed to take me on a malaga, which
I accepted. Monday I rode down to Apia, was nearly all day
fighting about drafts and money; the silver problem does not
touch you, but it is (in a strange and I hope passing phase)
making my situation difficult in Apia. About eleven, the
flags were all half-masted; it was old Captain Hamilton
(Samesoni the natives called him) who had passed away. In
the evening I walked round to the U.S. Consulate; it was a
lovely night with a full moon; and as I got round to the hot
corner of Matautu I heard hymns in front. The balcony of the
dead man's house was full of women singing; Mary (the widow,
a native) sat on a chair by the doorstep, and I was set
beside her on a bench, and next to Paul the carpenter; as I
sat down I had a glimpse of the old captain, who lay in a
sheet on his own table. After the hymn was over, a native
pastor made a speech which lasted a long while; the light
poured out of the door and windows; the girls were sitting
clustered at my feet; it was choking hot. After the speech
was ended, Mary carried me within; the captain's hands were
folded on his bosom, his face and head were composed; he
looked as if he might speak at any moment; I have never seen
this kind of waxwork so express or more venerable; and when I
went away, I was conscious of a certain envy for the man who
was out of the battle. All night it ran in my head, and the
next day when we sighted Tutuila, and ran into this beautiful
land-locked loch of Pago Pago (whence I write), Captain
Hamilton's folded hands and quiet face said a great deal more
to me than the scenery.
I am living here in a trader's house; we have a good table,
Sewall doing things in style; and I hope to benefit by the
change, and possibly get more stuff for Letters. In the
meanwhile, I am seized quite MAL-A-PROPOS with desire to
write a story, THE BLOODY WEDDING, founded on fact - very
possibly true, being an attempt to read a murder case - not
yet months old, in this very place and house where I now
write. The indiscretion is what stops me; but if I keep on
feeling as I feel just now it will have to be written. Three
Star Nettison, Kit Nettison, Field the Sailor, these are the
main characters: old Nettison, and the captain of the man of
war, the secondary. Possible scenario. Chapter I....
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I got back on Monday night, after twentythree
hours in an open boat; the keys were lost; the Consul
(who had promised us a bottle of Burgundy) nobly broke open
his store-room, and we got to bed about midnight. Next
morning the blessed Consul promised us horses for the
daybreak; forgot all about it, worthy man; set us off at last
in the heat of the day, and by a short cut which caused
infinite trouble, and we were not home till dinner. I was
extenuated, and have had a high fever since, or should have
been writing before. To-day for the first time, I risk it.
Tuesday I was pretty bad; Wednesday had a fever to kill a
horse; Thursday I was better, but still out of ability to do
aught but read awful trash. This is the time one misses
civilisation; I wished to send out for some police novels;
Montepin would have about suited my frozen brain. It is a
bother when all one's thought turns on one's work in some
sense or other; could not even think yesterday; I took to
inventing dishes by way of entertainment. Yesterday, while I
lay asleep in the afternoon, a very lucky thing happened; the
Chief Justice came to call; met one of our employes on the
road; and was shown what I had done to the road.
'Is this the road across the island?' he asked.
'The only one,' said Innes.
'And has one man done all this?'
'Three times,' said the trusty Innes. 'It has had to be made
three times, and when Mr. Stevenson came, it was a track like
what you see beyond.'
'This must be put right,' said the Chief Justice.
The truth is, I broke down yesterday almost as soon as I
began, and have been surreptitiously finishing the entry today.
For all that I was much better, ate all the time, and
had no fever. The day was otherwise uneventful. I am
reminded; I had another visitor on Friday; and Fanny and
Lloyd, as they returned from a forest raid, met in our
desert, untrodden road, first Father Didier, Keeper of the
conscience of Mataafa, the rising star; and next the Chief
justice, sole stay of Laupepa, the present and unsteady star,
and remember, a few days before we were close to the sick bed
and entertained by the amateur physician of Tamasese, the
late and sunken star. 'That is the fun of this place,'
observed Lloyd; 'everybody you meet is so important.'
Everybody is also so gloomy. It will come to war again, is
the opinion of all the well informed - and before that to
many bankruptcies; and after that, as usual, to famine.
Here, under the microscope, we can see history at work.
I have been very neglectful. A return to work, perhaps
premature, but necessary, has used up all my possible
energies and made me acquainted with the living headache. I
just jot down some of the past notabilia. Yesterday B., a
carpenter, and K., my (unsuccessful) white man, were absent
all morning from their work; I was working myself, where I
hear every sound with morbid certainty, and I can testify
that not a hammer fell. Upon inquiry I found they had passed
the morning making ice with our ice machine and taking the
horizon with a spirit level! I had no sooner heard this than
- a violent headache set in; I am a real employer of labour
now, and have much of the ship captain when aroused; and if I
had a headache, I believe both these gentlemen had aching
hearts. I promise you, the late - was to the front; and K.,
who was the most guilty, yet (in a sense) the least
blameable, having the brains and character of a canary-bird,
fared none the better for B.'s repartees. I hear them hard
at work this morning, so the menace may be blessed. It was
just after my dinner, just before theirs, that I administered
my redoubtable tongue - it is really redoubtable - to these
skulkers (Paul used to triumph over Mr. J. for weeks. 'I am
very sorry for you,' he would say; 'you're going to have a
talk with Mr. Stevenson when he comes home: you don't know
what that is!') In fact, none of them do, till they get it.
I have known K., for instance, for months; he has never heard
me complain, or take notice, unless it were to praise; I have
used him always as my guest, and there seems to be something
in my appearance which suggests endless, ovine longsuffering!
We sat in the upper verandah all evening, and
discussed the price of iron roofing, and the state of the
draught-horses, with Innes, a new man we have taken, and who
seems to promise well.
One thing embarrasses me. No one ever seems to understand my
attitude about that book; the stuff sent was never meant for
other than a first state; I never meant it to appear as a
book. Knowing well that I have never had one hour of
inspiration since it was begun, and have only beaten out my
metal by brute force and patient repetition, I hoped some day
to get a 'spate of style' and burnish it - fine mixed
metaphor. I am now so sick that I intend, when the Letters
are done and some more written that will be wanted, simply to
make a book of it by the pruning-knife.
I cannot fight longer; I am sensible of having done worse
than I hoped, worse than I feared; all I can do now is to do
the best I can for the future, and clear the book, like a
piece of bush, with axe and cutlass. Even to produce the MS.
of this will occupy me, at the most favourable opinion, till
the middle of next year; really five years were wanting, when
I could have made a book; but I have a family, and - perhaps
I could not make the book after all.
APRIL 29TH, '91.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I begin again. I was awake this morning
about half-past four. It was still night, but I made my
fire, which is always a delightful employment, and read
Lockhart's 'Scott' until the day began to peep. It was a
beautiful and sober dawn, a dove-coloured dawn, insensibly
brightening to gold. I was looking at it some while over the
down-hill profile of our eastern road, when I chanced to
glance northward, and saw with extraordinary pleasure the sea
lying outspread. It seemed as smooth as glass, and yet I
knew the surf was roaring all along the reef, and indeed, if
I had listened, I could have heard it - and saw the white
sweep of it outside Matautu.
I am out of condition still, and can do nothing, and toil to
be at my pen, and see some ink behind me. I have taken up
again THE HIGH WOODS OF ULUFANUA. I still think the fable
too fantastic and far-fetched. But, on a re-reading, fell in
love with my first chapter, and for good or evil I must
finish it. It is really good, well fed with facts, true to
the manners, and (for once in my works) rendered pleasing by
the presence of a heroine who is pretty. Miss Uma is pretty;
a fact. All my other women have been as ugly as sin, and
like Falconet's horse (I have just been reading the anecdote
in Lockhart), MORTES forbye.
News: Our old house is now half demolished; it is to be
rebuilt on a new site; now we look down upon and through the
open posts of it like a bird-cage, to the woods beyond. My
poor Paulo has lost his father and succeeded to thirty
thousand thalers (I think); he had to go down to the
Consulate yesterday to send a legal paper; got drunk, of
course, and is still this morning in so bemused a condition
that our breakfasts all went wrong. Lafaele is absent at the
deathbed of his fair spouse; fair she was, but not in deed,
acting as harlot to the wreckers at work on the warships, to
which society she probably owes her end, having fallen off a
cliff, or been thrust off it -INTER POCULA. Henry is the
same, our stand-by. In this transition stage he has been
living in Apia; but the other night he stayed up, and sat
with us about the chimney in my room. It was the first time
he had seen a fire in a hearth; he could not look at it
without smiles, and was always anxious to put on another
stick. We entertained him with the fairy tales of
civilisation - theatres, London, blocks in the street,
Universities, the Underground, newspapers, etc., and
projected once more his visit to Sydney. If we can manage,
it will be next Christmas. (I see it will be impossible for
me to afford a further journey THIS winter.) We have spent
since we have been here about 2500 pounds, which is not much
if you consider we have built on that three houses, one of
them of some size, and a considerable stable, made two miles
of road some three times, cleared many acres of bush, made
some miles of path, planted quantities of food, and enclosed
a horse paddock and some acres of pig run; but 'tis a good
deal of money regarded simply as money. K. is bosh; I have
no use for him; but we must do what we can with the fellow
meanwhile; he is good-humoured and honest, but inefficient,
idle himself, the cause of idleness in others, grumbling, a
self-excuser - all the faults in a bundle. He owes us thirty
weeks' service - the wretched Paul about half as much. Henry
is almost the only one of our employes who has a credit.
Well, am I ashamed of myself? I do not think so. I have
been hammering Letters ever since, and got three ready and a
fourth about half through; all four will go by the mail,
which is what I wish, for so I keep at least my start. Days
and days of unprofitable stubbing and digging, and the result
still poor as literature, left-handed, heavy, unillumined,
but I believe readable and interesting as matter. It has
been no joke of a hard time, and when my task was done, I had
little taste for anything but blowing on the pipe. A few
necessary letters filled the bowl to overflowing.
My mother has arrived, young, well, and in good spirits. By
desperate exertions, which have wholly floored Fanny, her
room was ready for her, and the dining-room fit to eat in.
It was a famous victory. Lloyd never told me of your
portrait till a few days ago; fortunately, I had no pictures
hung yet; and the space over my chimney waits your
counterfeit presentment. I have not often heard anything
that pleased me more; your severe head shall frown upon me
and keep me to the mark. But why has it not come? Have you
been as forgetful as Lloyd?
Miserable comforters are ye all! I read your esteemed pages
this morning by lamplight and the glimmer of the dawn, and as
soon as breakfast was over, I must turn to and tackle these
despised labours! Some courage was necessary, but not
wanting. There is one thing at least by which I can avenge
myself for my drubbing, for on one point you seem
impenetrably stupid. Can I find no form of words which will
at last convey to your intelligence the fact that THESE
There seems something incommunicable in this (to me) simple
idea; I know Lloyd failed to comprehend it, I doubt if he has
grasped it now; and I despair, after all these efforts, that
you should ever be enlightened. Still, oblige me by reading
that form of words once more, and see if a light does not
break. You may be sure, after the friendly freedoms of your
criticism (necessary I am sure, and wholesome I know, but
untimely to the poor labourer in his landslip) that mighty
little of it will stand.
Our Paul has come into a fortune, and wishes to go home to
the Hie Germanie. This is a tile on our head, and if a
shower, which is now falling, lets up, I must go down to
Apia, and see if I can find a substitute of any kind. This
is, from any point of view, disgusting; above all, from that
of work; for, whatever the result, the mill has to be kept
turning; apparently dust, and not flour, is the proceed.
Well, there is gold in the dust, which is a fine consolation,
since - well, I can't help it; night or morning, I do my
darndest, and if I cannot charge for merit, I must e'en
charge for toil, of which I have plenty and plenty more ahead
before this cup is drained; sweat and hyssop are the
We are clearing from Carruthers' Road to the pig fence,
twenty-eight powerful natives with Catholic medals about
their necks, all swiping in like Trojans; long may the sport
The invoice to hand. Ere this goes out, I hope to see your
expressive, but surely not benignant countenance! Adieu, O
culler of offensive expressions - 'and a' - to be a posy to
your ain dear May!' - Fanny seems a little revived again
after her spasm of work. Our books and furniture keep slowly
draining up the road, in a sad state of scatterment and
disrepair; I wish the devil had had K. by his red beard
before he had packed my library. Odd leaves and sheets and
boards - a thing to make a bibliomaniac shed tears - are
fished out of odd corners. But I am no bibliomaniac, praise
Heaven, and I bear up, and rejoice when I find anything safe.
However, I worked five hours on the brute, and finished my
Letter all the same, and couldn't sleep last night by
consequence. Haven't had a bad night since I don't know
when; dreamed a large, handsome man (a New Orleans planter)
had insulted my wife, and, do what I pleased, I could not
make him fight me; and woke to find it was the eleventh
anniversary of my marriage. A letter usually takes me from a
week to three days; but I'm sometimes two days on a page - I
was once three - and then my friends kick me. C'EST-Y-BETE!
I wish letters of that charming quality could be so timed as
to arrive when a fellow wasn't working at the truck in
question; but, of course, that can't be. Did not go down
last night. It showered all afternoon, and poured heavy and
loud all night.
You should have seen our twenty-five popes (the Samoan phrase
for a Catholic, lay or cleric) squatting when the day's work
was done on the ground outside the verandah, and pouring in
the rays of forty-eight eyes through the back and the front
door of the dining-room, while Henry and I and the boss pope
signed the contract. The second boss (an old man) wore a
kilt (as usual) and a Balmoral bonnet with a little tartan
edging and the tails pulled off. I told him that hat belong
to my country - Sekotia; and he said, yes, that was the place
that he belonged to right enough. And then all the Papists
laughed till the woods rang; he was slashing away with a
cutlass as he spoke.
The pictures have decidedly not come; they may probably
arrive Sunday.
JUNE, 1891.
SIR, - To you, under your portrait, which is, in expression,
your true, breathing self, and up to now saddens me; in time,
and soon, I shall be glad to have it there; it is still only
a reminder of your absence. Fanny wept when we unpacked it,
and you know how little she is given to that mood; I was
scarce Roman myself, but that does not count - I lift up my
voice so readily. These are good compliments to the artist.
I write in the midst of a wreck of books, which have just
come up, and have for once defied my labours to get straight.
The whole floor is filled with them, and (what's worse) most
of the shelves forbye; and where they are to go to, and what
is to become of the librarian, God knows. It is hot tonight,
and has been airless all day, and I am out of sorts,
and my work sticks, the devil fly away with it and me. We
had an alarm of war since last I wrote my screeds to you, and
it blew over, and is to blow on again, and the rumour goes
they are to begin by killing all the whites. I have no
belief in this, and should be infinitely sorry if it came to
pass - I do not mean for US, that were otiose - but for the
poor, deluded schoolboys, who should hope to gain by such a
No diary this time. Why? you ask. I have only sent out four
Letters, and two chapters of the WRECKER. Yes, but to get
these I have written 132 pp., 66,000 words in thirty days;
2200 words a day; the labours of an elephant. God knows what
it's like, and don't ask me, but nobody shall say I have
spared pains. I thought for some time it wouldn't come at
all. I was days and days over the first letter of the lot -
days and days writing and deleting and making no headway
whatever, till I thought I should have gone bust; but it came
at last after a fashion, and the rest went a thought more
easily, though I am not so fond as to fancy any better.
Your opinion as to the letters as a whole is so damnatory
that I put them by. But there is a 'hell of a want of' money
this year. And these Gilbert Island papers, being the most
interesting in matter, and forming a compact whole, and being
well illustrated, I did think of as a possible resource.
It would be called
and I daresay I'll think of a better yet - and would divide
I. A Town asleep.
II. The Three Brothers.
III. Around our House.
IV. A Tale of a Tapu.
V. The Five Day's Festival.
VI. Domestic Life - (which might be omitted, but not well,
better be recast).
VII. The Royal Traders.
VIII. Foundation of Equator Town.
IX. The Palace of Mary Warren.
X. Equator Town and the Palace.
XI. King and Commons.
XII. The Devil Work Box.
XIII. The Three Corslets.
XIV. Tail piece; the Court upon a Journey.
I wish you to watch these closely, judging them as a whole,
and treating them as I have asked you, and favour me with
your damnatory advice. I look up at your portrait, and it
frowns upon me. You seem to view me with reproach. The
expression is excellent; Fanny wept when she saw it, and you
know she is not given to the melting mood. She seems really
better; I have a touch of fever again, I fancy overwork, and
to-day, when I have overtaken my letters, I shall blow on my
pipe. Tell Mrs. S. I have been playing LE CHANT D'AMOUR
lately, and have arranged it, after awful trouble, rather
prettily for two pipes; and it brought her before me with an
effect scarce short of hallucination. I could hear her voice
in every note; yet I had forgot the air entirely, and began
to pipe it from notes as something new, when I was brought up
with a round turn by this reminiscence. We are now very much
installed; the dining-room is done, and looks lovely. Soon
we shall begin to photograph and send you our circumstances.
My room is still a howling wilderness. I sleep on a platform
in a window, and strike my mosquito bar and roll up my
bedclothes every morning, so that the bed becomes by day a
divan. A great part of the floor is knee-deep in books, yet
nearly all the shelves are filled, alas! It is a place to
make a pig recoil, yet here are my interminable labours begun
daily by lamp-light, and sometimes not yet done when the lamp
has once more to be lighted. The effect of pictures in this
place is surprising. They give great pleasure.
A word more. I had my breakfast this morning at 4.30! My
new cook has beaten me and (as Lloyd says) revenged all the
cooks in the world. I have been hunting them to give me
breakfast early since I was twenty; and now here comes Mr.
Ratke, and I have to plead for mercy. I cannot stand 4.30; I
am a mere fevered wreck; it is now half-past eight, and I can
no more, and four hours divide me from lunch, the devil take
the man! Yesterday it was about 5.30, which I can stand; day
before 5, which is bad enough; to-day, I give out. It is
like a London season, and as I do not take a siesta once in a
month, and then only five minutes, I am being worn to the
bones, and look aged and anxious.
We have Rider Haggard's brother here as a Land Commissioner;
a nice kind of a fellow; indeed, all the three Land
Commissioners are very agreeable.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 5 (?), 1891.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Yours from Lochinver has just come. You
ask me if I am ever homesick for the Highlands and the Isles.
Conceive that for the last month I have been living there
between 1786 and 1850, in my grandfather's diaries and
letters. I HAD to take a rest; no use talking; so I put in a
month over my LIVES OF THE STEVENSONS with great pleasure and
profit and some advance; one chapter and a part drafted. The
whole promises well Chapter I. Domestic Annals. Chapter II.
The Northern Lights. Chapter III. The Bell Rock. Chapter
IV. A Family of Boys. Chap. V. The Grandfather. VI. Alan
Stevenson. VII. Thomas Stevenson. My materials for my
great-grandfather are almost null; for my grandfather copious
and excellent. Name, a puzzle. A SCOTTISH FAMILY, A FAMILY
LIGHTS: A FAMILY HISTORY. Advise; but it will take long.
Now, imagine if I have been homesick for Barrahead and Island
Glass, and Kirkwall, and Cape Wrath, and the Wells of the
Pentland Firth; I could have wept.
Now for politics. I am much less alarmed; I believe the MALO
(=RAJ, government) will collapse and cease like an overlain
infant, without a shot fired. They have now been months here
on their big salaries - and Cedarcrantz, whom I specially
like as a man, has done nearly nothing, and the Baron, who is
well-meaning, has done worse. They have these large
salaries, and they have all the taxes; they have made scarce
a foot of road; they have not given a single native a
position - all to white men; they have scarce laid out a
penny on Apia, and scarce a penny on the King; they have
forgot they were in Samoa, or that such a thing as Samoans
existed, and had eyes and some intelligence. The Chief
Justice has refused to pay his customs! The President
proposed to have an expensive house built for himself, while
the King, his master, has none! I had stood aside, and been
a loyal, and, above all, a silent subject, up to then; but
now I snap my fingers at their MALO. It is damned, and I'm
damned glad of it. And this is not all. Last 'WAINIU,' when
I sent Fanny off to Fiji, I hear the wonderful news that the
Chief Justice is going to Fiji and the Colonies to improve
his mind. I showed my way of thought to his guest, Count
Wachtmeister, whom I have sent to you with a letter - he will
tell you all the news. Well, the Chief Justice stayed, but
they said he was to leave yesterday. I had intended to go
down, and see and warn him! But the President's house had
come up in the meanwhile, and I let them go to their doom,
which I am only anxious to see swiftly and (if it may be)
bloodlessly fall.
Thus I have in a way withdrawn my unrewarded loyalty. Lloyd
is down to-day with Moors to call on Mataafa; the news of the
excursion made a considerable row in Apia, and both the
German and the English consuls besought Lloyd not to go. But
he stuck to his purpose, and with my approval. It's a poor
thing if people are to give up a pleasure party for a MALO
that has never done anything for us but draw taxes, and is
going to go pop, and leave us at the mercy of the identical
Mataafa, whom I have not visited for more than a year, and
who is probably furious.
The sense of my helplessness here has been rather bitter; I
feel it wretched to see this dance of folly and injustice and
unconscious rapacity go forward from day to day, and to be
impotent. I was not consulted - or only by one man, and that
on particular points; I did not choose to volunteer advice
till some pressing occasion; I have not even a vote, for I am
not a member of the municipality.
What ails you, miserable man, to talk of saving material? I
have a whole world in my head, a whole new society to work,
but I am in no hurry; you will shortly make the acquaintance
of the Island of Ulufanua, on which I mean to lay several
stories; the BLOODY WEDDING, possibly the HIGH WOODS - (O,
it's so good, the High Woods, but the story is craziness;
that's the trouble,) - a political story, the LABOUR SLAVE,
etc. Ulufanua is an imaginary island; the name is a
beautiful Samoan word for the TOP of a forest; ulu - leaves
or hair, fanua=land. The ground or country of the leaves.
'Ulufanua the isle of the sea,' read that verse dactylically
and you get the beat; the u's are like our double oo; did
ever you hear a prettier word?
I do not feel inclined to make a volume of Essays, but if I
did, and perhaps the idea is good - and any idea is better
than South Seas - here would be my choice of the Scribner
There was a paper called the OLD PACIFIC CAPITAL in Fraser,
in Tulloch's time, which had merit; there were two on
Fontainebleau in the MAGAZINE OF ART in Henley's time. I
have no idea if they're any good; then there's the EMIGRANT
TRAIN. PULVIS ET UMBRA is in a different key, and wouldn't
hang on with the rest.
I have just interrupted my letter and read through the
chapter of the HIGH WOODS that is written, a chapter and a
bit, some sixteen pages, really very fetching, but what do
you wish? the story is so wilful, so steep, so silly - it's a
hallucination I have outlived, and yet I never did a better
piece of work, horrid, and pleasing, and extraordinarily
TRUE; it's sixteen pages of the South Seas; their essence.
What am I to do? Lose this little gem - for I'll be bold,
and that's what I think it - or go on with the rest, which I
don't believe in, and don't like, and which can never make
aught but a silly yarn? Make another end to it? Ah, yes,
but that's not the way I write; the whole tale is implied; I
never use an effect, when I can help it, unless it prepares
the effects that are to follow; that's what a story consists
in. To make another end, that is to make the beginning all
wrong. The denouement of a long story is nothing; it is just
a 'full close,' which you may approach and accompany as you
please - it is a coda, not an essential member in the rhythm;
but the body and end of a short story is bone of the bone and
blood of the blood of the beginning. Well, I shall end by
finishing it against my judgment; that fragment is my
Delilah. Golly, it's good. I am not shining by modesty; but
I do just love the colour and movement of that piece so far
as it goes.
I was surprised to hear of your fishing. And you saw the
'Pharos,' thrice fortunate man; I wish I dared go home, I
would ask the Commissioners to take me round for old sake's
sake, and see all my family pictures once more from the Mull
of Galloway to Unst. However, all is arranged for our
meeting in Ceylon, except the date and the blooming pounds.
I have heard of an exquisite hotel in the country, airy,
large rooms, good cookery, not dear; we shall have a couple
of months there, if we can make it out, and converse or - as
my grandfather always said - 'commune.' 'Communings with Mr.
Kennedy as to Lighthouse Repairs.' He was a fine old fellow,
but a droll.
Lloyd has returned. Peace and war were played before his
eyes at heads or tails. A German was stopped with levelled
guns; he raised his whip; had it fallen, we might have been
now in war. Excuses were made by Mataafa himself. Doubtless
the thing was done - I mean the stopping of the German - a
little to show off before Lloyd. Meanwhile - was up here,
telling how the Chief Justice was really gone for five or
eight weeks, and begging me to write to the TIMES and
denounce the state of affairs; many strong reasons he
advanced; and Lloyd and I have been since his arrival and -'s
departure, near half an hour, debating what should be done.
Cedarcrantz is gone; it is not my fault; he knows my views on
that point - alone of all points; - he leaves me with my
mouth sealed. Yet this is a nice thing that because he is
guilty of a fresh offence - his flight - the mouth of the
only possible influential witness should be closed? I do not
like this argument. I look like a cad, if I do in the man's
absence what I could have done in a more manly manner in his
presence. True; but why did he go? It is his last sin. And
I, who like the man extremely - that is the word - I love his
society - he is intelligent, pleasant, even witty, a
gentleman - and you know how that attaches - I loathe to seem
to play a base part; but the poor natives - who are like
other folk, false enough, lazy enough, not heroes, not saints
- ordinary men damnably misused - are they to suffer because
I like Cedarcrantz, and Cedarcrantz has cut his lucky? This
is a little tragedy, observe well - a tragedy! I may be
right, I may be wrong in my judgment, but I am in treaty with
my honour. I know not how it will seem to-morrow. Lloyd
thought the barrier of honour insurmountable, and it is an
ugly obstacle. He (Cedarcrantz) will likely meet my wife
three days from now, may travel back with her, will be
charming if he does; suppose this, and suppose him to arrive
and find that I have sprung a mine - or the nearest approach
to it I could find - behind his back? My position is pretty.
Yes, I am an aristocrat. I have the old petty, personal view
of honour? I should blush till I die if I do this; yet it is
on the cards that I may do it. So much I have written you in
bed, as a man writes, or talks, in a BITTRE WAHL. Now I
shall sleep, and see if I am more clear. I will consult the
missionaries at least - I place some reliance in M. also - or
I should if he were not a partisan; but a partisan he is.
There's the pity. To sleep! A fund of wisdom in the
prostrate body and the fed brain. Kindly observe R. L. S. in
the talons of politics! 'Tis funny - 'tis sad. Nobody but
these cursed idiots could have so driven me; I cannot bear
My dear Colvin, I must go to sleep; it is long past ten - a
dreadful hour for me. And here am I lingering (so I feel) in
the dining-room at the Monument, talking to you across the
table, both on our feet, and only the two stairs to mount,
and get to bed, and sleep, and be waked by dear old George -
to whom I wish my kindest remembrances - next morning. I
look round, and there is my blue room, and my long lines of
shelves, and the door gaping on a moonless night, and no word
of S. C. but his twa portraits on the wall. Good-bye, my
dear fellow, and goodnight. Queer place the world!
No clearness of mind with the morning; I have no guess what I
should do. 'Tis easy to say that the public duty should
brush aside these little considerations of personal dignity;
so it is that politicians begin, and in a month you find them
rat and flatter and intrigue with brows of brass. I am
rather of the old view, that a man's first duty is to these
little laws; the big he does not, he never will, understand;
I may be wrong about the Chief Justice and the Baron and the
state of Samoa; I cannot be wrong about the vile attitude I
put myself in if I blow the gaff on Cedarcrantz behind his
One more word about the South Seas, in answer to a question I
observe I have forgotten to answer. The Tahiti part has
never turned up, because it has never been written. As for
telling you where I went or when, or anything about Honolulu,
I would rather die; that is fair and plain. How can anybody
care when or how I left Honolulu? A man of upwards of forty
cannot waste his time in communicating matter of that
indifference. The letters, it appears, are tedious; they
would be more tedious still if I wasted my time upon such
infantile and sucking-bottle details. If ever I put in any
such detail, it is because it leads into something or serves
as a transition. To tell it for its own sake, never! The
mistake is all through that I have told too much; I had not
sufficient confidence in the reader, and have overfed him;
and here are you anxious to learn how I - O Colvin! Suppose
it had made a book, all such information is given to one
glance of an eye by a map with a little dotted line upon it.
But let us forget this unfortunate affair.
Yesterday I went down to consult Clarke, who took the view of
delay. Has he changed his mind already? I wonder: here at
least is the news. Some little while back some men of Manono
- what is Manono? - a Samoan rotten borough, a small isle of
huge political importance, heaven knows why, where a handful
of chiefs make half the trouble in the country. Some men of
Manono (which is strong Mataafa) burned down the houses and
destroyed the crops of some Malietoa neighbours. The
President went there the other day and landed alone on the
island, which (to give him his due) was plucky. Moreover, he
succeeded in persuading the folks to come up and be judged on
a particular day in Apia. That day they did not come; but
did come the next, and, to their vast surprise, were given
six months' imprisonment and clapped in gaol. Those who had
accompanied them cried to them on the streets as they were
marched to prison, 'Shall we rescue you?' The condemned,
marching in the hands of thirty men with loaded rifles, cried
out 'No'! And the trick was done. But it was ardently
believed a rescue would be attempted; the gaol was laid about
with armed men day and night; but there was some question of
their loyalty, and the commandant of the forces, a very nice
young beardless Swede, became nervous, and conceived a plan.
How if he should put dynamite under the gaol, and in case of
an attempted rescue blow up prison and all? He went to the
President, who agreed; he went to the American man-of-war for
the dynamite and machine, was refused, and got it at last
from the Wreckers. The thing began to leak out, and there
arose a muttering in town. People had no fancy for amateur
explosions, for one thing. For another, it did not clearly
appear that it was legal; the men had been condemned to six
months' prison, which they were peaceably undergoing; they
had not been condemned to death. And lastly, it seemed a
somewhat advanced example of civilisation to set before
barbarians. The mutter in short became a storm, and
yesterday, while I was down, a cutter was chartered, and the
prisoners were suddenly banished to the Tokelaus. Who has
changed the sentence? We are going to stir in the dynamite
matter; we do not want the natives to fancy us consenting to
such an outrage.
Fanny has returned from her trip, and on the whole looks
better. The HIGH WOODS are under way, and their name is now
the BEACH OF FALESA, and the yarn is cured. I have about
thirty pages of it done; it will be fifty to seventy I
suppose. No supernatural trick at all; and escaped out of it
quite easily; can't think why I was so stupid for so long.
Mighty glad to have Fanny back to this 'Hell of the South
Seas,' as the German Captain called it. What will
Cedarcrantz think when he comes back? To do him justice, had
he been here, this Manono hash would not have been.
Here is a pretty thing. When Fanny was in Fiji all the Samoa
and Tokelau folks were agog about our 'flash' house; but the
whites had never heard of it.
SEPT. 28.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Since I last laid down my pen, I have
written and rewritten THE BEACH OF FALESA; something like
sixty thousand words of sterling domestic fiction (the story,
you will understand, is only half that length); and now I
don't want to write any more again for ever, or feel so; and
I've got to overhaul it once again to my sorrow. I was all
yesterday revising, and found a lot of slacknesses and (what
is worse in this kind of thing) some literaryisms. One of
the puzzles is this: It is a first person story - a trader
telling his own adventure in an island. When I began I
allowed myself a few liberties, because I was afraid of the
end; now the end proved quite easy, and could be done in the
pace; so the beginning remains about a quarter tone out (in
places); but I have rather decided to let it stay so. The
problem is always delicate; it is the only thing that worries
me in first person tales, which otherwise (quo' Alan) 'set
better wi' my genius.' There is a vast deal of fact in the
story, and some pretty good comedy. It is the first
realistic South Sea story; I mean with real South Sea
character and details of life. Everybody else who has tried,
that I have seen, got carried away by the romance, and ended
in a kind of sugar-candy sham epic, and the whole effect was
lost - there was no etching, no human grin, consequently no
conviction. Now I have got the smell and look of the thing a
good deal. You will know more about the South Seas after you
have read my little tale than if you had read a library. As
to whether any one else will read it, I have no guess. I am
in an off time, but there is just the possibility it might
make a hit; for the yarn is good and melodramatic, and there
is quite a love affair - for me; and Mr. Wiltshire (the
narrator) is a huge lark, though I say it. But there is
always the exotic question, and everything, the life, the
place, the dialects - trader's talk, which is a strange
conglomerate of literary expressions and English and American
slang, and Beach de Mar, or native English, - the very trades
and hopes and fears of the characters, are all novel, and may
be found unwelcome to that great, hulking, bullering whale,
the public.
Since I wrote, I have been likewise drawing up a document to
send it to the President; it has been dreadfully delayed, not
by me, but to-day they swear it will be sent in. A list of
questions about the dynamite report are herein laid before
him, and considerations suggested why he should answer.
Ever since my last snatch I have been much chivied about over
the President business; his answer has come, and is an
evasion accompanied with schoolboy insolence, and we are
going to try to answer it. I drew my answer and took it down
yesterday; but one of the signatories wants another paragraph
added, which I have not yet been able to draw, and as to the
wisdom of which I am not yet convinced.
We are all in rather a muddled state with our President
affair. I do loathe politics, but at the same time, I cannot
stand by and have the natives blown in the air treacherously
with dynamite. They are still quiet; how long this may
continue I do not know, though of course by mere prescription
the Government is strengthened, and is probably insured till
the next taxes fall due. But the unpopularity of the whites
is growing. My native overseer, the great Henry Simele,
announced to-day that he was 'weary of whites upon the beach.
All too proud,' said this veracious witness. One of the
proud ones had threatened yesterday to cut off his head with
a bush knife! These are 'native outrages'; honour bright,
and setting theft aside, in which the natives are active,
this is the main stream of irritation. The natives are
generally courtly, far from always civil, but really gentle,
and with a strong sense of honour of their own, and certainly
quite as much civilised as our dynamiting President.
We shall be delighted to see Kipling. I go to bed usually
about half-past eight, and my lamp is out before ten; I
breakfast at six. We may say roughly we have no soda water
on the island, and just now truthfully no whisky. I HAVE
heard the chimes at midnight; now no more, I guess. BUT -
Fanny and I, as soon as we can get coins for it, are coming
to Europe, not to England: I am thinking of Royat. Bar wars.
If not, perhaps the Apennines might give us a mountain refuge
for two months or three in summer. How is that for high?
But the money must be all in hand first.
How am I to describe my life these last few days? I have
been wholly swallowed up in politics, a wretched business,
with fine elements of farce in it too, which repay a man in
passing, involving many dark and many moonlight rides, secret
counsels which are at once divulged, sealed letters which are
read aloud in confidence to the neighbours, and a mass of
fudge and fun, which would have driven me crazy ten years
ago, and now makes me smile.
On Friday, Henry came and told us he must leave and go to 'my
poor old family in Savaii'; why? I do not quite know - but,
I suspect, to be tattooed - if so, then probably to be
married, and we shall see him no more. I told him he must do
what he thought his duty; we had him to lunch, drank his
health, and he and I rode down about twelve. When I got
down, I sent my horse back to help bring down the family
later. My own afternoon was cut out for me; my last draft
for the President had been objected to by some of the
signatories. I stood out, and one of our small number
accordingly refused to sign. Him I had to go and persuade,
which went off very well after the first hottish moments; you
have no idea how stolid my temper is now. By about five the
thing was done; and we sat down to dinner at the Chinaman's -
the Verrey or Doyen's of Apia - G. and I at each end as
hosts; G.'s wife - Fanua, late maid of the village; her
(adopted) father and mother, Seumanu and Faatulia, Fanny,
Belle, Lloyd, Austin, and Henry Simele, his last appearance.
Henry was in a kilt of gray shawl, with a blue jacket, white
shirt and black necktie, and looked like a dark genteel guest
in a Highland shooting-box. Seumanu (opposite Fanny, next
G.) is chief of Apia, a rather big gun in this place, looking
like a large, fatted, military Englishman, bar the colour.
Faatulia, next me, is a bigger chief than her husband. Henry
is a chief too - his chief name, Iiga (Ee-eeng-a), he has not
yet 'taken' because of his youth. We were in fine society,
and had a pleasant meal-time, with lots of fun. Then to the
Opera - I beg your pardon, I mean the Circus. We occupied
the first row in the reserved seats, and there in the row
behind were all our friends - Captain Foss and his Captain-
Lieutenant, three of the American officers, very nice
fellows, the Dr., etc, so we made a fine show of what an
embittered correspondent of the local paper called 'the
shoddy aristocracy of Apia'; and you should have seen how we
carried on, and how I clapped, and Captain Foss hollered
'WUNDERSCHON!' and threw himself forward in his seat, and how
we all in fact enjoyed ourselves like school-children, Austin
not a shade more than his neighbours. Then the Circus broke
up, and the party went home, but I stayed down, having
business on the morrow.
Yesterday, October 12th, great news reaches me, and Lloyd and
I, with the mail just coming in, must leave all, saddle, and
ride down. True enough, the President had resigned! Sought
to resign his presidency of the council, and keep his
advisership to the King; given way to the Consul's objections
and resigned all - then fell out with them about the
disposition of the funds, and was now trying to resign from
his resignation! Sad little President, so trim to look at,
and I believe so kind to his little wife! Not only so, but I
meet D. on the beach. D. calls me in consultation, and we
make with infinite difficulty a draft of a petition to the
King. . . . Then to dinner at M.'s, a very merry meal,
interrupted before it was over by the arrival of the
committee. Slight sketch of procedure agreed upon, self
appointed spokesman, and the deputation sets off. Walk all
through Matafele, all along Mulinuu, come to the King's
house; he has verbally refused to see us in answer to our
letter, swearing he is gase-gase (chief-sickness, not common
man's), and indeed we see him inside in bed. It is a
miserable low house, better houses by the dozen in the little
hamlet (Tanugamanono) of bushmen on our way to Vailima; and
the President's house in process of erection just opposite!
We are told to return to-morrow; I refuse; and at last we are
very sourly received, sit on the mats, and I open out,
through a very poor interpreter, and sometimes hampered by
unacceptable counsels from my backers. I can speak fairly
well in a plain way now. C. asked me to write out my
harangue for him this morning; I have done so, and couldn't
get it near as good. I suppose (talking and interpreting) I
was twenty minutes or half-an-hour on the deck; then his
majesty replied in the dying whisper of a big chief; a few
words of rejoinder (approving), and the deputation withdrew,
rather well satisfied.
A few days ago this intervention would have been a deportable
offence; not now, I bet; I would like them to try. A little
way back along Mulinuu, Mrs. G. met us with her husband's
horse; and he and she and Lloyd and I rode back in a heavenly
moonlight. Here ends a chapter in the life of an island
politician! Catch me at it again; 'tis easy to go in, but it
is not a pleasant trade. I have had a good team, as good as
I could get on the beach; but what trouble even so, and what
fresh troubles shaping. But I have on the whole carried all
my points; I believe all but one, and on that (which did not
concern me) I had no right to interfere. I am sure you would
be amazed if you knew what a good hand I am at keeping my
temper, talking people over, and giving reasons which are not
my reasons, but calculated for the meridian of the particular
objection; so soon does falsehood await the politician in his
whirling path.
MY DEAR CARTHEW, - See what I have written, but it's Colvin
I'm after - I have written two chapters, about thirty pages
of WRECKER since the mail left, which must be my excuse, and
the bother I've had with it is not to be imagined, you might
have seen me the day before yesterday weighing British sov.'s
and Chili dollars to arrange my treasure chest. And there
was such a calculation, not for that only, but for the ship's
position and distances when - but I am not going to tell you
the yarn - and then, as my arithmetic is particularly lax,
Lloyd had to go over all my calculations; and then, as I had
changed the amount of money, he had to go over all HIS as to
the amount of the lay; and altogether, a bank could be run
with less effusion of figures than it took to shore up a
single chapter of a measly yarn. However, it's done, and I
have but one more, or at the outside two, to do, and I am
Free! and can do any damn thing I like.
Before falling on politics, I shall give you my day. Awoke
somewhere about the first peep of day, came gradually to, and
had a turn on the verandah before 5.55, when 'the child' (an
enormous Wallis Islander) brings me an orange; at 6,
breakfast; 6.10, to work; which lasts till, at 10.30, Austin
comes for his history lecture; this is rather dispiriting,
but education must be gone about in faith - and charity, both
of which pretty nigh failed me to-day about (of all things)
Carthage; 11, luncheon; after luncheon in my mother's room, I
read Chapter XXIII. of THE WRECKER, then Belle, Lloyd, and I
go up and make music furiously till about 2 (I suppose), when
I turn into work again till 4; fool from 4 to half-past,
tired out and waiting for the bath hour; 4.30, bath; 4.40,
eat two heavenly mangoes on the verandah, and see the boys
arrive with the pack-horses; 5, dinner; smoke, chat on
verandah, then hand of cards, and at last at 8 come up to my
room with a pint of beer and a hard biscuit, which I am now
consuming, and as soon as they are consumed I shall turn in.
Such are the innocent days of this ancient and outworn
sportsman; to-day there was no weeding, usually there is
however, edge in somewhere. My books for the moment are a
crib to Phaedo, and the second book of Montaigne; and a
little while back I was reading Frederic Harrison, 'Choice of
Books,' etc. - very good indeed, a great deal of sense and
knowledge in the volume, and some very true stuff, CONTRA
Carlyle, about the eighteenth century. A hideous idea came
over me that perhaps Harrison is now getting OLD. Perhaps
you are. Perhaps I am. Oh, this infidelity must be stared
firmly down. I am about twenty-three - say twenty-eight; you
about thirty, or, by'r lady, thirty-four; and as Harrison
belongs to the same generation, there is no good bothering
about him.
Here has just been a fine alert; I gave my wife a dose of
chlorodyne. 'Something wrong,' says she. 'Nonsense,' said
I. 'Embrocation,' said she. I smelt it, and - it smelt very
funny. 'I think it's just gone bad, and to-morrow will
tell.' Proved to be so.
HISTORY OF TUESDAY. - Woke at usual time, very little work,
for I was tired, and had a job for the evening - to write
parts for a new instrument, a violin. Lunch, chat, and up to
my place to practise; but there was no practising for me - my
flageolet was gone wrong, and I had to take it all to pieces,
clean it, and put it up again. As this is a most intricate
job - the thing dissolves into seventeen separate members,
most of these have to be fitted on their individual springs
as fine as needles, and sometimes two at once with the
springs shoving different ways - it took me till two. Then
Lloyd and I rode forth on our errands; first to Motootua,
where we had a really instructive conversation on weeds and
grasses. Thence down to Apia, where we bought a fresh bottle
of chlorodyne and conversed on politics.
My visit to the King, which I thought at the time a
particularly nugatory and even schoolboy step, and only
consented to because I had held the reins so tight over my
little band before, has raised a deuce of a row - new
proclamation, no one is to interview the sacred puppet
without consuls' permission, two days' notice, and an
approved interpreter - read (I suppose) spy. Then back; I
should have said I was trying the new horse; a tallish
piebald, bought from the circus; he proved steady and safe,
but in very bad condition, and not so much the wild Arab
steed of the desert as had been supposed. The height of his
back, after commodious Jack, astonished me, and I had a great
consciousness of exercise and florid action, as I posted to
his long, emphatic trot. We had to ride back easy; even so
he was hot and blown; and when we set a boy to lead him to
and fro, our last character for sanity perished. We returned
just neat for dinner; and in the evening our violinist
arrived, a young lady, no great virtuoso truly, but plucky,
industrious, and a good reader; and we played five pieces
with huge amusement, and broke up at nine. This morning I
have read a splendid piece of Montaigne, written this page of
letter, and now turn to the WRECKER.
WEDNESDAY - November 16th or 17th - and I am ashamed to say
mail day. The WRECKER is finished, that is the best of my
news; it goes by this mail to Scribner's; and I honestly
think it a good yarn on the whole and of its measly kind.
The part that is genuinely good is Nares, the American
sailor; that is a genuine figure; had there been more Nares
it would have been a better book; but of course it didn't set
up to be a book, only a long tough yarn with some pictures of
the manners of to-day in the greater world - not the shoddy
sham world of cities, clubs, and colleges, but the world
where men still live a man's life. The worst of my news is
the influenza; Apia is devastate; the shops closed, a ball
put off, etc. As yet we have not had it at Vailima, and, who
knows? we may escape. None of us go down, but of course the
boys come and go.
Your letter had the most wonderful 'I told you so' I ever
heard in the course of my life. Why, you madman, I wouldn't
change my present installation for any post, dignity, honour,
or advantage conceivable to me. It fills the bill; I have
the loveliest time. And as for wars and rumours of wars, you
surely know enough of me to be aware that I like that also a
thousand times better than decrepit peace in Middlesex? I do
not quite like politics; I am too aristocratic, I fear, for
that. God knows I don't care who I chum with; perhaps like
sailors best; but to go round and sue and sneak to keep a
crowd together - never. My imagination, which is not the
least damped by the idea of having my head cut off in the
bush, recoils aghast from the idea of a life like
Gladstone's, and the shadow of the newspaper chills me to the
bone. Hence my late eruption was interesting, but not what I
like. All else suits me in this (killed a mosquito) A1
About politics. A determination was come to by the President
that he had been an idiot; emissaries came to G. and me to
kiss and be friends. My man proposed I should have a
personal interview; I said it was quite useless, I had
nothing to say; I had offered him the chance to inform me,
had pressed it on him, and had been very unpleasantly
received, and now 'Time was.' Then it was decided that I was
to be made a culprit against Germany; the German Captain - a
delightful fellow and our constant visitor - wrote to say
that as 'a German officer' he could not come even to say
farewell. We all wrote back in the most friendly spirit,
telling him (politely) that some of these days he would be
sorry, and we should be delighted to see our friend again.
Since then I have seen no German shadow.
Mataafa has been proclaimed a rebel; the President did this
act, and then resigned. By singular good fortune, Mataafa
has not yet moved; no thanks to our idiot governors. They
have shot their bolt; they have made a rebel of the only man
held the rebel party in check; and having thus called on war
to fall, they can do no more, sit equally 'expertes' of VIS
and counsel, regarding their handiwork. It is always a cry
with these folk that he (Mataafa) had no ammunition. I
always said it would be found; and we know of five boat-loads
that have found their way to Malie already. Where there are
traders, there will be ammunition; aphorism by R. L. S.
Now what am I to do next?
Lives of the Stevensons? HISTORIA SAMOAE? A History for
Children? Fiction? I have had two hard months at fiction; I
want a change. Stevensons? I am expecting some more
material; perhaps better wait. Samoa; rather tempting; might
be useful to the islands - and to me; for it will be written
in admirable temper; I have never agreed with any party, and
see merits and excuses in all; should do it (if I did) very
slackly and easily, as if half in conversation. History for
Children? This flows from my lessons to Austin; no book is
any good. The best I have seen is Freeman's OLD ENGLISH
HISTORY; but his style is so rasping, and a child can learn
more, if he's clever. I found my sketch of general Aryan
History, given in conversation, to have been practically
correct - at least what I mean is, Freeman had very much the
same stuff in his early chapters, only not so much, and I
thought not so well placed; and the child remembered some of
it. Now the difficulty is to give this general idea of main
place, growth, and movement; it is needful to tack it on a
yarn. Now Scotch is the only History I know; it is the only
history reasonably represented in my library; it is a very
good one for my purpose, owing to two civilisations having
been face to face throughout - or rather Roman civilisation
face to face with our ancient barbaric life and government,
down to yesterday, to 1750 anyway. But the TALES OF A
GRANDFATHER stand in my way; I am teaching them to Austin
now, and they have all Scott's defects and all Scott's
hopeless merit. I cannot compete with that; and yet, so far
as regards teaching History, how he has missed his chances!
I think I'll try; I really have some historic sense, I feel
that in my bones. Then there's another thing. Scott never
knew the Highlands; he was always a Borderer. He has missed
that whole, long, strange, pathetic story of our savages,
and, besides, his style is not very perspicuous to childhood.
Gad, I think I'll have a flutter. Buridan's Ass! Whether to
go, what to attack. Must go to other letters; shall add to
this, if I have time.
NOV. 25TH, 1891.
MY DEAR COLVIN, MY DEAR COLVIN, - I wonder how often I'm
going to write it. In spite of the loss of three days, as I
have to tell, and a lot of weeding and cacao planting, I have
finished since the mail left four chapters, forty-eight pages
of my Samoa history. It is true that the first three had
been a good deal drafted two years ago, but they had all to
be written and re-written, and the fourth chapter is all new.
Chapter I. Elements of Discord-Native. II. Elements of
Discord-Foreign. III. The Success of Laupepa. IV. Brandeis.
V. Will probably be called 'The Rise of Mataafa.' VI. FUROR
CONSULARIS - a devil of a long chapter. VII. Stuebel the
Pacificator. VIII. Government under the Treaty of Berlin.
IX. Practical Suggestions. Say three-sixths of it are done,
maybe more; by this mail five chapters should go, and that
should be a good half of it; say sixty pages. And if you
consider that I sent by last mail the end of the WRECKER,
coming on for seventy or eighty pages, and the mail before
that the entire Tale of the BEACH OF FALESA, I do not think I
can be accused of idleness. This is my season; I often work
six and seven, and sometimes eight hours; and the same day I
am perhaps weeding or planting for an hour or two more - and
I daresay you know what hard work weeding is - and it all
agrees with me at this time of the year - like - like
idleness, if a man of my years could be idle.
My first visit to Apia was a shock to me; every second person
the ghost of himself, and the place reeking with infection.
But I have not got the thing yet, and hope to escape. This
shows how much stronger I am; think of me flitting through a
town of influenza patients seemingly unscathed. We are all
on the cacao planting.
The next day my wife and I rode over to the German
plantation, Vailele, whose manager is almost the only German
left to speak to us. Seventy labourers down with influenza!
It is a lovely ride, half-way down our mountain towards Apia,
then turn to the right, ford the river, and three miles of
solitary grass and cocoa palms, to where the sea beats and
the wild wind blows unceasingly about the plantation house.
On the way down Fanny said, 'Now what would you do if you saw
Colvin coming up?'
Next day we rode down to Apia to make calls.
Yesterday the mail came, and the fat was in the fire.
NOV. 29TH?
BOOK. All right. I must say I like your order. And the
papers are some of them up to dick, and no mistake. I agree
with you the lights seem a little turned down. The truth is,
I was far through (if you understand Scots), and came none
too soon to the South Seas, where I was to recover peace of
body and mind. No man but myself knew all my bitterness in
those days. Remember that, the next time you think I regret
my exile. And however low the lights are, the stuff is true,
and I believe the more effective; after all, what I wish to
fight is the best fought by a rather cheerless presentation
of the truth. The world must return some day to the word
duty, and be done with the word reward. There are no
rewards, and plenty duties. And the sooner a man sees that
and acts upon it like a gentleman or a fine old barbarian,
the better for himself.
There is my usual puzzle about publishers. Chatto ought to
have it, as he has all the other essays; these all belong to
me, and Chatto publishes on terms. Longman has forgotten the
terms we are on; let him look up our first correspondence,
and he will see I reserved explicitly, as was my habit, the
right to republish as I choose. Had the same arrangement
with Henley, Magazine of Art, and with Tulloch Fraser's. -
For any necessary note or preface, it would be a real service
if you would undertake the duty yourself. I should love a
preface by you, as short or as long as you choose, three
sentences, thirty pages, the thing I should like is your
name. And the excuse of my great distance seems sufficient.
I shall return with this the sheets corrected as far as I
have them; the rest I will leave, if you will, to you
entirely; let it be your book, and disclaim what you dislike
in the preface. You can say it was at my eager prayer. I
should say I am the less willing to pass Chatto over, because
he behaved the other day in a very handsome manner. He asked
leave to reprint DAMIEN; I gave it to him as a present,
explaining I could receive no emolument for a personal
attack. And he took out my share of profits, and sent them
in my name to the Leper Fund. I could not bear after that to
take from him any of that class of books which I have always
given him. Tell him the same terms will do. Clark to print,
uniform with the others.
I have lost all the days since this letter began re-handling
Chapter IV. of the Samoa racket. I do not go in for
literature; address myself to sensible people rather than to
sensitive. And, indeed, it is a kind of journalism, I have
no right to dally; if it is to help, it must come soon. In
two months from now it shall be done, and should be published
in the course of March. I propose Cassell gets it. I am
going to call it 'A Footnote to History: Eight Years of
Trouble in Samoa,' I believe. I recoil from serious names;
they seem so much too pretentious for a pamphlet. It will be
about the size of TREASURE ISLAND, I believe. Of course, as
you now know, my case of conscience cleared itself off, and I
began my intervention directly to one of the parties. The
other, the Chief Justice, I am to inform of my book the first
occasion. God knows if the book will do any good - or harm;
but I judge it right to try. There is one man's life
certainly involved; and it may be all our lives. I must not
stand and slouch, but do my best as best I can. But you may
conceive the difficulty of a history extending to the present
week, at least, and where almost all the actors upon all
sides are of my personal acquaintance. The only way is to
judge slowly, and write boldly, and leave the issue to fate.
. . . I am far indeed from wishing to confine myself to
creative work; that is a loss, the other repairs; the one
chance for a man, and, above all, for one who grows elderly,
ahem, is to vary drainage and repair. That is the one thing
I understand - the cultivation of the shallow SOLUM of my
brain. But I would rather, from soon on, be released from
the obligation to write. In five or six years this
plantation - suppose it and us still to exist - should pretty
well support us and pay wages; not before, and already the
six years seem long to me. If literature were but a pastime!
I have interrupted myself to write the necessary notification
to the Chief Justice.
I see in looking up Longman's letter that it was as usual the
letter of an obliging gentleman; so do not trouble him with
my reminder. I wish all my publishers were not so nice. And
I have a fourth and a fifth baying at my heels; but for
these, of course, they must go wanting.
No answer from the Chief Justice, which is like him, but
surely very wrong in such a case. The lunch bell! I have
been off work, playing patience and weeding all morning.
Yesterday and the day before I drafted eleven and revised
nine pages of Chapter V., and the truth is, I was extinct by
lunch-time, and played patience sourly the rest of the day.
To-morrow or next day I hope to go in again and win. Lunch
2nd Bell.
I have kept up the idleness; blew on the pipe to Belle's
piano; then had a ride in the forest all by my nainsel; back
and piped again, and now dinner nearing. Take up this sheet
with nothing to say. The weird figure of Faauma is in the
room washing my windows, in a black lavalava (kilt) with a
red handkerchief hanging from round her neck between her
breasts; not another stitch; her hair close cropped and
oiled; when she first came here she was an angelic little
stripling, but she is now in full flower - or half-flower -
and grows buxom. As I write, I hear her wet cloth moving and
grunting with some industry; for I had a word this day with
her husband on the matter of work and meal-time, when she is
always late. And she has a vague reverence for Papa, as she
and her enormous husband address me when anything is wrong.
Her husband is Lafaele, sometimes called the archangel, of
whom I have writ you often. Rest of our household, Talolo,
cook; Pulu, kitchen boy, good, steady, industrious lads;
Henry, back again from Savaii, where his love affair seems
not to have prospered, with what looks like a spear-wound in
the back of his head, of which Mr. Reticence says nothing;
Simi, Manuele, and two other labourers out-doors. Lafaele is
provost of the live-stock, whereof now, three milk-cows, one
bull-calf, one heifer, Jack, Macfarlane, the mare, Harold,
Tifaga Jack, Donald and Edinburgh - seven horses - O, and the
stallion - eight horses; five cattle; total, if my arithmetic
be correct, thirteen head of beasts; I don't know how the
pigs stand, or the ducks, or the chickens; but we get a good
many eggs, and now and again a duckling or a chickling for
the table; the pigs are more solemn, and appear only on
birthdays and sich.
On Friday morning about eleven 1500 cacao seeds arrived, and
we set to and toiled from twelve that day to six, and went to
bed pretty tired. Next day I got about an hour and a half at
my History, and was at it again by 8.10, and except an hour
for lunch kept at it till four P.M. Yesterday, I did some
History in the morning, and slept most of the afternoon; and
to-day, being still averse from physical labour, and the mail
drawing nigh, drew out of the squad, and finished for press
the fifth chapter of my History; fifty-nine pages in one
month; which (you will allow me to say) is a devil of a large
order; it means at least 177 pages of writing; 89,000 words!
and hours going to and fro among my notes. However, this is
the way it has to be done; the job must be done fast, or it
is of no use. And it is a curious yarn. Honestly, I think
people should be amused and convinced, if they could be at
the pains to look at such a damned outlandish piece of
machinery, which of course they won't. And much I care.
When I was filling baskets all Saturday, in my dull mulish
way, perhaps the slowest worker there, surely the most
particular, and the only one that never looked up or knocked
off, I could not but think I should have been sent on
exhibition as an example to young literary men. Here is how
to learn to write, might be the motto. You should have seen
us; the verandah was like an Irish bog; our hands and faces
were bedaubed with soil; and Faauma was supposed to have
struck the right note when she remarked (A PROPOS of
nothing), 'Too much ELEELE (soil) for me!' The cacao (you
must understand) has to be planted at first in baskets of
plaited cocoa-leaf. From four to ten natives were plaiting
these in the wood-shed. Four boys were digging up soil and
bringing it by the boxful to the verandah. Lloyd and I and
Belle, and sometimes S. (who came to bear a hand), were
filling the baskets, removing stones and lumps of clay;
Austin and Faauma carried them when full to Fanny, who
planted a seed in each, and then set them, packed close, in
the corners of the verandah. From twelve on Friday till five
P.M. on Saturday we planted the first 1500, and more than 700
of a second lot. You cannot dream how filthy we were, and we
were all properly tired. They are all at it again to-day,
bar Belle and me, not required, and glad to be out of it.
The Chief Justice has not yet replied, and I have news that
he received my letter. What a man!
I have gone crazy over Bourget's SENSATIONS D'ITALIE; hence
the enclosed dedications, a mere cry of gratitude for the
best fun I've had over a new book this ever so!
SIR, - I have the honour to report further explorations of
the course of the river Vaea, with accompanying sketch plan.
The party under my command consisted of one horse, and was
extremely insubordinate and mutinous, owing to not being used
to go into the bush, and being half-broken anyway - and that
the wrong half. The route indicated for my party was up the
bed of the so-called river Vaea, which I accordingly followed
to a distance of perhaps two or three furlongs eastward from
the house of Vailima, where the stream being quite dry, the
bush thick, and the ground very difficult, I decided to leave
the main body of the force under my command tied to a tree,
and push on myself with the point of the advance guard,
consisting of one man. The valley had become very narrow and
airless; foliage close shut above; dry bed of the stream much
excavated, so that I passed under fallen trees without
stooping. Suddenly it turned sharply to the north, at right
angles to its former direction; I heard living water, and
came in view of a tall face of rock and the stream spraying
down it; it might have been climbed, but it would have been
dangerous, and I had to make my way up the steep earth banks,
where there is nowhere any footing for man, only fallen
trees, which made the rounds of my ladder. I was near the
top of this climb, which was very hot and steep, and the
pulses were buzzing all over my body, when I made sure there
was one external sound in my ears, and paused to listen. No
mistake; a sound of a mill-wheel thundering, I thought, close
by, yet below me, a huge mill-wheel, yet not going steadily,
but with a SCHOTTISCHE movement, and at each fresh impetus
shaking the mountain. There, where I was, I just put down
the sound to the mystery of the bush; where no sound now
surprises me - and any sound alarms; I only thought it would
give Jack a fine fright, down where he stood tied to a tree
by himself, and he was badly enough scared when I left him.
The good folks at home identified it; it was a sharp
At the top of the climb I made my way again to the watercourse;
it is here running steady and pretty full; strange
these intermittencies - and just a little below the main
stream is quite dry, and all the original brook has gone down
some lava gallery of the mountain - and just a little further
below, it begins picking up from the left hand in little
boggy tributaries, and in the inside of a hundred yards has
grown a brook again. The general course of the brook was, I
guess, S.E.; the valley still very deep and whelmed in wood.
It seemed a swindle to have made so sheer a climb and still
find yourself at the bottom of a well. But gradually the
thing seemed to shallow, the trees to seem poorer and
smaller; I could see more and more of the silver sprinkles of
sky among the foliage, instead of the sombre piling up of
tree behind tree. And here I had two scares - first, away up
on my right hand I heard a bull low; I think it was a bull
from the quality of the low, which was singularly songful and
beautiful; the bulls belong to me, but how did I know that
the bull was aware of that? and my advance guard not being at
all properly armed, we advanced with great precaution until I
was satisfied that I was passing eastward of the enemy. It
was during this period that a pool of the river suddenly
boiled up in my face in a little fountain. It was in a very
dreary, marshy part among dilapidated trees that you see
through holes in the trunks of; and if any kind of beast or
elf or devil had come out of that sudden silver ebullition, I
declare I do not think I should have been surprised. It was
perhaps a thing as curious - a fish, with which these head
waters of the stream are alive. They are some of them as
long as my finger, should be easily caught in these shallows,
and some day I'll have a dish of them.
Very soon after I came to where the stream collects in
another banana swamp, with the bananas bearing well. Beyond,
the course is again quite dry; it mounts with a sharp turn a
very steep face of the mountain, and then stops abruptly at
the lip of a plateau, I suppose the top of Vaea mountain:
plainly no more springs here - there was no smallest furrow
of a watercourse beyond - and my task might be said to be
accomplished. But such is the animated spirit in the service
that the whole advance guard expressed a sentiment of
disappointment that an exploration, so far successfully
conducted, should come to a stop in the most promising view
of fresh successes. And though unprovided either with
compass or cutlass, it was determined to push some way along
the plateau, marking our direction by the laborious process
of bending down, sitting upon, and thus breaking the wild
cocoanut trees. This was the less regretted by all from a
delightful discovery made of a huge banyan growing here in
the bush, with flying-buttressed flying buttresses, and huge
arcs of trunk hanging high overhead and trailing down new
complications of root. I climbed some way up what seemed the
original beginning; it was easier to climb than a ship's
rigging, even rattled; everywhere there was foot-hold and
hand-hold. It was judged wise to return and rally the main
body, who had now been left alone for perhaps forty minutes
in the bush.
The return was effected in good order, but unhappily I only
arrived (like so many other explorers) to find my main body
or rear-guard in a condition of mutiny; the work, it is to be
supposed, of terror. It is right I should tell you the Vaea
has a bad name, an AITU FAFINE - female devil of the woods -
succubus - haunting it, and doubtless Jack had heard of her;
perhaps, during my absence, saw her; lucky Jack! Anyway, he
was neither to hold nor to bind, and finally, after nearly
smashing me by accident, and from mere scare and
insubordination several times, deliberately set in to kill
me; but poor Jack! the tree he selected for that purpose was
a banana! I jumped off and gave him the heavy end of my whip
over the buttocks! Then I took and talked in his ear in
various voices; you should have heard my alto - it was a
dreadful, devilish note - I KNEW Jack KNEW it was an AITU.
Then I mounted him again, and he carried me fairly steadily.
He'll learn yet. He has to learn to trust absolutely to his
rider; till he does, the risk is always great in thick bush,
where a fellow must try different passages, and put back and
forward, and pick his way by hair's-breadths.
The expedition returned to Vailima in time to receive the
visit of the R. C. Bishop. He is a superior man, much above
the average of priests.
Yesterday the same expedition set forth to the southward by
what is known as Carruthers' Road. At a fallen tree which
completely blocks the way, the main body was as before left
behind, and the advance guard of one now proceeded with the
exploration. At the great tree known as MEPI TREE, after
Maben the surveyor, the expedition struck forty yards due
west till it struck the top of a steep bank which it
descended. The whole bottom of the ravine is filled with
sharp lava blocks quite unrolled and very difficult and
dangerous to walk among; no water in the course, scarce any
sign of water. And yet surely water must have made this bold
cutting in the plateau. And if so, why is the lava sharp?
My science gave out; but I could not but think it ominous and
volcanic. The course of the stream was tortuous, but with a
resultant direction a little by west of north; the sides the
whole way exceeding steep, the expedition buried under
fathoms of foliage. Presently water appeared in the bottom,
a good quantity; perhaps thirty or forty cubic feet, with
pools and waterfalls. A tree that stands all along the banks
here must be very fond of water; its roots lie close-packed
down the stream, like hanks of guts, so as to make often a
corrugated walk, each root ending in a blunt tuft of
filaments, plainly to drink water. Twice there came in small
tributaries from the left or western side - the whole plateau
having a smartish inclination to the east; one of the
tributaries in a handsome little web of silver hanging in the
forest. Twice I was startled by birds; one that barked like
a dog; another that whistled loud ploughman's signals, so
that I vow I was thrilled, and thought I had fallen among
runaway blacks, and regretted my cutlass which I had lost and
left behind while taking bearings. A good many fishes in the
brook, and many cray-fish; one of the last with a queer glowworm
head. Like all our brooks, the water is pure as air,
and runs over red stones like rubies. The foliage along both
banks very thick and high, the place close, the walking
exceedingly laborious. By the time the expedition reached
the fork, it was felt exceedingly questionable whether the
MORAL of the force were sufficiently good to undertake more
extended operations. A halt was called, the men refreshed
with water and a bath, and it was decided at a drumhead
council of war to continue the descent of the Embassy Water
straight for Vailima, whither the expedition returned, in
rather poor condition, and wet to the waist, about 4. P.M.
Thus in two days the two main watercourses of this country
have been pretty thoroughly explored, and I conceive my
instructions fully carried out. The main body of the second
expedition was brought back by another officer despatched for
that purpose from Vailima. Casualties: one horse wounded;
one man bruised; no deaths - as yet, but the bruised man
feels to-day as if his case was mighty serious.
DEC. 25, '91.
Your note with a very despicable bulletin of health arrived
only yesterday, the mail being a day behind. It contained
also the excellent TIMES article, which was a sight for sore
eyes. I am still TABOO; the blessed Germans will have none
of me; and I only hope they may enjoy the TIMES article.
'Tis my revenge! I wish you had sent the letter too, as I
have no copy, and do not even know what I wrote the last day,
with a bad headache, and the mail going out. However, it
must have been about right, for the TIMES article was in the
spirit I wished to arouse. I hope we can get rid of the man
before it is too late. He has set the natives to war; but
the natives, by God's blessing, do not want to fight, and I
think it will fizzle out - no thanks to the man who tried to
start it. But I did not mean to drift into these politics;
rather to tell you what I have done since I last wrote.
Well, I worked away at my History for a while, and only got
one chapter done; no doubt this spate of work is pretty low
now, and will be soon dry; but, God bless you, what a lot I
have accomplished; WRECKER done, BEACH OF FALESA done, half
the HISTORY: C'EST ETONNANT. (I hear from Burlingame, by the
way, that he likes the end of the WRECKER; 'tis certainly a
violent, dark yarn with interesting, plain turns of human
nature), then Lloyd and I went down to live in Haggard's
rooms, where Fanny presently joined us. Haggard's rooms are
in a strange old building - old for Samoa, and has the effect
of the antique like some strange monastery; I would tell you
more of it, but I think I'm going to use it in a tale. The
annexe close by had its door sealed; poor Dowdney lost at sea
in a schooner. The place is haunted. The vast empty sheds,
the empty store, the airless, hot, long, low rooms, the claps
of wind that set everything flying - a strange uncanny house
to spend Christmas in.
JAN. 1ST, '92.
For a day or two I have sat close and wrought hard at the
HISTORY, and two more chapters are all but done. About
thirty pages should go by this mail, which is not what should
be, but all I could overtake. Will any one ever read it? I
fancy not; people don't read history for reading, but for
education and display - and who desires education in the
history of Samoa, with no population, no past, no future, or
the exploits of Mataafa, Malietoa, and Consul Knappe?
Colkitto and Galasp are a trifle to it. Well, it can't be
helped, and it must be done, and, better or worse, it's
capital fun. There are two to whom I have not been kind -
German Consul Becker and English Captain Hand, R.N.
On Dec. 30th I rode down with Belle to go to (if you please)
the Fancy Ball. When I got to the beach, I found the
barometer was below 29 degrees, the wind still in the east
and steady, but a huge offensive continent of clouds and
vapours forming to leeward. It might be a hurricane; I dared
not risk getting caught away from my work, and, leaving
Belle, returned at once to Vailima. Next day - yesterday -
it was a tearer; we had storm shutters up; I sat in my room
and wrote by lamplight - ten pages, if you please, seven of
them draft, and some of these compiled from as many as seven
different and conflicting authorities, so that was a brave
day's work. About two a huge tree fell within sixty paces of
our house; a little after, a second went; and we sent out
boys with axes and cut down a third, which was too near the
house, and buckling like a fishing rod. At dinner we had the
front door closed and shuttered, the back door open, the lamp
lit. The boys in the cook-house were all out at the cookhouse
door, where we could see them looking in and smiling.
Lauilo and Faauma waited on us with smiles. The excitement
was delightful. Some very violent squalls came as we sat
there, and every one rejoiced; it was impossible to help it;
a soul of putty had to sing. All night it blew; the roof was
continually sounding under missiles; in the morning the
verandahs were half full of branches torn from the forest.
There was a last very wild squall about six; the rain, like a
thick white smoke, flying past the house in volleys, and as
swift, it seemed, as rifle balls; all with a strange,
strident hiss, such as I have only heard before at sea, and,
indeed, thought to be a marine phenomenon. Since then the
wind has been falling with a few squalls, mostly rain. But
our road is impassable for horses; we hear a schooner has
been wrecked and some native houses blown down in Apia, where
Belle is still and must remain a prisoner. Lucky I returned
while I could! But the great good is this; much bread-fruit
and bananas have been destroyed; if this be general through
the islands, famine will be imminent; and WHOEVER BLOWS THE
COALS, THERE CAN BE NO WAR. Do I then prefer a famine to a
war? you ask. Not always, but just now. I am sure the
natives do not want a war; I am sure a war would benefit no
one but the white officials, and I believe we can easily meet
the famine - or at least that it can be met. That would give
our officials a legitimate opportunity to cover their past
I woke this morning to find the blow quite ended. The heaven
was all a mottled gray; even the east quite colourless; the
downward slope of the island veiled in wafts of vapour, blue
like smoke; not a leaf stirred on the tallest tree; only,
three miles away below me on the barrier reef, I could see
the individual breakers curl and fall, and hear their
conjunct roaring rise, as it still rises at 1 P.M., like the
roar of a thoroughfare close by. I did a good morning's
work, correcting and clarifying my draft, and have now
finished for press eight chapters, ninety-one pages, of this
piece of journalism. Four more chapters, say fifty pages,
remain to be done; I should gain my wager and finish this
volume in three months, that is to say, the end should leave
me per February mail; I cannot receive it back till the mail
of April. Yes, it can be out in time; pray God that it be in
time to help.
How do journalists fetch up their drivel? I aim only at
clearness and the most obvious finish, positively at no
higher degree of merit, not even at brevity - I am sure it
could have been all done, with double the time, in two-thirds
of the space. And yet it has taken me two months to write
45,500 words; and, be damned to my wicked prowess, I am proud
of the exploit! The real journalist must be a man not of
brass only, but bronze. Chapter IX. gapes for me, but I
shrink on the margin, and go on chattering to you. This last
part will be much less offensive (strange to say) to the
Germans. It is Becker they will never forgive me for; Knappe
I pity and do not dislike; Becker I scorn and abominate.
Here is the tableau. I. Elements of Discord: Native. II.
Elements of Discord: Foreign. III. The Sorrows of Laupepa.
IV. Brandeis. V. The Battle of Matautu. VI. Last Exploits
of Becker. VII. The Samoan Camps. VIII. Affairs of Lautii
and Fangalii. IX. 'FUROR CONSULARIS.' X. The Hurricane.
XI. Stuebel Recluse. XII. The Present Government. I
estimate the whole roughly at 70,000 words. Should anybody
ever dream of reading it, it would be found amusing.
70000/300=233 printed pages; a respectable little five-bob
volume, to bloom unread in shop windows. After that, I'll
have a spank at fiction. And rest? I shall rest in the
grave, or when I come to Italy. If only the public will
continue to support me! I lost my chance not dying; there
seems blooming little fear of it now. I worked close on five
hours this morning; the day before, close on nine; and unless
I finish myself off with this letter, I'll have another hour
and a half, or AIBLINS TWA, before dinner. Poor man, how you
must envy me, as you hear of these orgies of work, and you
scarce able for a letter. But Lord, Colvin, how lucky the
situations are not reversed, for I have no situation, nor am
fit for any. Life is a steigh brae. Here, have at Knappe,
and no more clavers!
There was never any man had so many irons in the fire, except
Jim Pinkerton. I forgot to mention I have the most gallant
suggestion from Lang, with an offer of MS. authorities, which
turns my brain. It's all about the throne of Poland and
buried treasure in the Mackay country, and Alan Breck can
figure there in glory.
Yesterday, J. and I set off to Blacklock's (American Consul)
who lives not far from that little village I have so often
mentioned as lying between us and Apia. I had some questions
to ask him for my History; thence we must proceed to Vailele,
where I had also to cross-examine the plantation manager
about the battle there. We went by a track I had never
before followed down the hill to Vaisigano, which flows here
in a deep valley, and was unusually full, so that the horses
trembled in the ford. The whole bottom of the valley is full
of various streams posting between strips of forest with a
brave sound of waters. In one place we had a glimpse of a
fall some way higher up, and then sparkling in sunlight in
the midst of the green valley. Then up by a winding path
scarce accessible to a horse for steepness, to the other
side, and the open cocoanut glades of the plantation. Here
we rode fast, did a mighty satisfactory afternoon's work at
the plantation house, and still faster back. On the return
Jack fell with me, but got up again; when I felt him
recovering I gave him his head, and he shoved his foot
through the rein; I got him by the bit however, and all was
well; he had mud over all his face, but his knees were not
broken. We were scarce home when the rain began again; that
was luck. It is pouring now in torrents; we are in the
height of the bad season. Lloyd leaves along with this
letter on a change to San Francisco; he had much need of it,
but I think this will brace him up. I am, as you see, a
tower of strength. I can remember riding not so far and not
near so fast when I first came to Samoa, and being shattered
next day with fatigue; now I could not tell I have done
anything; have re-handled my battle of Fangalii according to
yesterday's information - four pages rewritten; and written
already some half-dozen pages of letters.
I observe with disgust that while of yore, when I own I was
guilty, you never spared me abuse, but now, when I am so
virtuous, where is the praise? Do admit that I have become
an excellent letter-writer - at least to you, and that your
ingratitude is imbecile. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
JAN 31ST, '92.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - No letter at all from you, and this scratch
from me! Here is a year that opens ill. Lloyd is off to
'the coast' sick - THE COAST means California over most of
the Pacific - I have been down all month with influenza, and
am just recovering - I am overlaid with proofs, which I am
just about half fit to attend to. One of my horses died this
morning, and another is now dying on the front lawn - Lloyd's
horse and Fanny's. Such is my quarrel with destiny. But I
am mending famously, come and go on the balcony, have
perfectly good nights, and though I still cough, have no
oppression and no hemorrhage and no fever. So if I can find
time and courage to add no more, you will know my news is not
altogether of the worst; a year or two ago, and what a state
I should have been in now! Your silence, I own, rather
alarms me. But I tell myself you have just miscarried; had
you been too ill to write, some one would have written me.
Understand, I send this brief scratch not because I am unfit
to write more, but because I have 58 galleys of the WRECKER
and 102 of the BEACH OF FALESA to get overhauled somehow or
other in time for the mail, and for three weeks I have not
touched a pen with my finger.
The second horse is still alive, but I still think dying.
The first was buried this morning. My proofs are done; it
was a rough two days of it, but done. CONSUMMATUM EST; NA
UMA. I believe the WRECKER ends well; if I know what a good
yarn is, the last four chapters make a good yarn - but pretty
horrible. THE BEACH OF FALESA I still think well of, but it
seems it's immoral and there's a to-do, and financially it
may prove a heavy disappointment. The plaintive request sent
to me, to make the young folks married properly before 'that
night,' I refused; you will see what would be left of the
yarn, had I consented. This is a poison bad world for the
romancer, this Anglo-Saxon world; I usually get out of it by
not having any women in it at all; but when I remember I had
the TREASURE OF FRANCHARD refused as unfit for a family
magazine, I feel despair weigh upon my wrists.
As I know you are always interested in novels, I must tell
you that a new one is now entirely planned. It is to be
called SOPHIA SCARLET, and is in two parts. Part I. The
Vanilla Planter. Part II. The Overseers. No chapters, I
think; just two dense blocks of narrative, the first of which
is purely sentimental, but the second has some rows and
quarrels, and winds up with an explosion, if you please! I
am just burning to get at Sophia, but I MUST do this Samoan
journalism - that's a cursed duty. The first part of Sophia,
bar the first twenty or thirty pages, writes itself; the
second is more difficult, involving a good many characters -
about ten, I think - who have to be kept all moving, and give
the effect of a society. I have three women to handle, out
and well-away! but only Sophia is in full tone. Sophia and
two men, Windermere, the Vanilla Planter, who dies at the end
of Part I., and Rainsforth, who only appears in the beginning
of Part II. The fact is, I blush to own it, but Sophia is a
REGULAR NOVEL; heroine and hero, and false accusation, and
love, and marriage, and all the rest of it - all planted in a
big South Sea plantation run by ex-English officers - A LA
Stewart's plantation in Tahiti. There is a strong
undercurrent of labour trade, which gives it a kind of Uncle
Tom flavour, ABSIT OMEN! The first start is hard; it is hard
to avoid a little tedium here, but I think by beginning with
the arrival of the three Miss Scarlets hot from school and
society in England, I may manage to slide in the information.
The problem is exactly a Balzac one, and I wish I had his
fist - for I have already a better method - the kinetic,
whereas he continually allowed himself to be led into the
static. But then he had the fist, and the most I can hope is
to get out of it with a modicum of grace and energy, but for
sure without the strong impression, the full, dark brush.
Three people have had it, the real creator's brush: Scott,
(especially all round the trial, before, during, and after) -
Balzac - and Thackeray in VANITY FAIR. Everybody else either
paints THIN, or has to stop to paint, or paints excitedly, so
that you see the author skipping before his canvas. Here is
a long way from poor Sophia Scarlet!
This day is published
FEB. 1892.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This has been a busyish month for a sick
man. First, Faauma - the bronze candlestick, whom otherwise
I called my butler - bolted from the bed and bosom of
Lafaele, the Archangel Hercules, prefect of the cattle.
There was the deuce to pay, and Hercules was inconsolable,
and immediately started out after a new wife, and has had one
up on a visit, but says she has 'no conversation'; and I
think he will take back the erring and possibly repentant
candlestick; whom we all devoutly prefer, as she is not only
highly decorative, but good-natured, and if she does little
work makes no rows. I tell this lightly, but it really was a
heavy business; many were accused of complicity, and Rafael
was really very sorry. I had to hold beds of justice -
literally - seated in my bed and surrounded by lying Samoans
seated on the floor; and there were many picturesque and
still inexplicable passages. It is hard to reach the truth
in these islands.
The next incident overlapped with this. S. and Fanny found
three strange horses in the paddock: for long now the boys
have been forbidden to leave their horses here one hour
because our grass is over-grazed. S. came up with the news,
and I saw I must now strike a blow. 'To the pound with the
lot,' said I. He proposed taking the three himself, but I
thought that too dangerous an experiment, said I should go
too, and hurried into my boots so as to show decision taken,
in the necessary interviews. They came of course - the
interviews - and I explained what I was going to do at huge
length, and stuck to my guns. I am glad to say the natives,
with their usual (purely speculative) sense of justice highly
approved the step after reflection. Meanwhile off went S.
and I with the three CORPORA DELICTI; and a good job I went!
Once, when our circus began to kick, we thought all was up;
but we got them down all sound in wind and limb. I judged I
was much fallen off from my Elliott forefathers, who managed
this class of business with neatness and despatch. Half-way
down it came on to rain tropic style, and I came back from my
outing drenched liked a drowned man - I was literally blinded
as I came back among these sheets of water; and the
consequence was I was laid down with diarrhoea and
threatenings of Samoa colic for the inside of another week.
I have a confession to make. When I was sick I tried to get
to work to finish that Samoa thing, wouldn't go; and at last,
in the colic time, I slid off into DAVID BALFOUR, some 50
pages of which are drafted, and like me well. Really I think
it is spirited; and there's a heroine that (up to now) seems
to have attractions: ABSIT OMEN! David, on the whole, seems
excellent. Alan does not come in till the tenth chapter, and
I am only at the eighth, so I don't know if I can find him
again; but David is on his feet, and doing well, and very
much in love, and mixed up with the Lord Advocate and the
(untitled) Lord Lovat, and all manner of great folk. And the
tale interferes with my eating and sleeping. The join is
bad; I have not thought to strain too much for continuity; so
this part be alive, I shall be content. But there's no doubt
David seems to have changed his style, de'il ha'e him! And
much I care, if the tale travel!
Two incidents to-day which I must narrate. After lunch, it
was raining pitilessly; we were sitting in my mother's
bedroom, and I was reading aloud Kinglake's Charge of the
Light Brigade, and we had just been all seized by the horses
aligning with Lord George Paget, when a figure appeared on
the verandah; a little, slim, small figure of a lad, with
blond (I.E. limed) hair, a propitiatory smile, and a nose
that alone of all his features grew pale with anxiety. 'I
come here stop,' was about the outside of his English; and I
began at once to guess that he was a runaway labourer, and
that the bush-knife in his hand was stolen. It proved he had
a mate, who had lacked his courage, and was hidden down the
road; they had both made up their minds to run away, and had
'come here stop.' I could not turn out the poor rogues, one
of whom showed me marks on his back, into the drenching
forest; I could not reason with them, for they had not enough
English, and not one of our boys spoke their tongue; so I
bade them feed and sleep here to-night, and to-morrow I must
do what the Lord shall bid me.
Near dinner time, I was told that a friend of Lafaele's had
found human remains in my bush. After dinner, a figure was
seen skulking across towards the waterfall, which produced
from the verandah a shout, in my most stentorian tones: 'O AI
LE INGOA?' literally 'Who the name?' which serves here for
'What's your business?' as well. It proved to be Lafaele's
friend; I bade a kitchen boy, Lauilo, go with him to see the
spot, for though it had ceased raining, the whole island ran
and dripped. Lauilo was willing enough, but the friend of
the archangel demurred; he had too much business; he had no
time. 'All right,' I said, 'you too much frightened, I go
along,' which of course produced the usual shout of delight
from all those who did not require to go. I got into my
Saranac snow boots. Lauilo got a cutlass; Mary Carter, our
Sydney maid, joined the party for a lark, and off we set. I
tell you our guide kept us moving; for the dusk fell swift.
Our woods have an infamous reputation at the best, and our
errand (to say the least of it) was grisly. At last 'they
found the remains; they were old, which was all I cared to be
sure of; it seemed a strangely small 'pickle-banes' to stand
for a big, flourishing, buck-islander, and their situation in
the darkening and dripping bush was melancholy. All at once,
I found there was a second skull, with a bullet-hole I could
have stuck my two thumbs in - say anybody else's one thumb.
My Samoans said it could not be, there were not enough bones;
I put the two pieces of skull together, and at last convinced
them. Whereupon, in a flash, they found the not unromantic
explanation. This poor brave had succeeded in the height of
a Samoan warriors ambition; he had taken a head, which he was
never destined to show to his applauding camp. Wounded
himself, he had crept here into the bush to die with his
useless trophy by his side. His date would be about fifteen
years ago, in the great battle between Laupepa and Talavou,
which took place on My Land, Sir. To-morrow we shall bury
the bones and fire a salute in honour of unfortunate courage.
Do you think I have an empty life? or that a man jogging to
his club has so much to interest and amuse him? - touch and
try him too, but that goes along with the others: no pain, no
pleasure, is the iron law. So here I stop again, and leave,
as I left yesterday, my political business untouched. And
lo! here comes my pupil, I believe, so I stop in time.
Since I last wrote, fifteen chapters of DAVID BALFOUR have
been drafted, and five TIRES AU CLAIR. I think it pretty
good; there's a blooming maiden that costs anxiety - she is
as virginal as billy; but David seems there and alive, and
the Lord Advocate is good, and so I think is an episodic
appearance of the Master of Lovat. In Chapter XVII. I shall
get David abroad - Alan went already in Chapter XII. The
book should be about the length of KIDNAPPED; this early part
of it, about D.'s evidence in the Appin case, is more of a
story than anything in KIDNAPPED, but there is no doubt there
comes a break in the middle, and the tale is practically in
two divisions. In the first James More and the M'Gregors,
and Catriona, only show; in the second, the Appin case being
disposed of, and James Stewart hung, they rule the roast and
usurp the interest - should there be any left. Why did I
take up DAVID BALFOUR? I don't know. A sudden passion.
Monday, I went down in the rain with a colic to take the
chair at a public meeting; dined with Haggard; sailed off to
my meeting, and fought with wild beasts for three anxious
hours. All was lost that any sensible man cared for, but the
meeting did not break up - thanks a good deal to R. L. S. -
and the man who opposed my election, and with whom I was all
the time wrangling, proposed the vote of thanks to me with a
certain handsomeness; I assure you I had earned it . . .
Haggard and the great Abdul, his high-caste Indian servant,
imported by my wife, were sitting up for me with supper, and
I suppose it was twelve before I got to bed. Tuesday
raining, my mother rode down, and we went to the Consulate to
sign a Factory and Commission. Thence, I to the lawyers, to
the printing office, and to the Mission. It was dinner time
when I returned home.
This morning, our cook-boy having suddenly left - injured
feelings - the archangel was to cook breakfast. I found him
lighting the fire before dawn; his eyes blazed, he had no
word of any language left to use, and I saw in him (to my
wonder) the strongest workings of gratified ambition.
Napoleon was no more pleased to sign his first treaty with
Austria than was Lafaele to cook that breakfast. All
morning, when I had hoped to be at this letter, I slept like
one drugged and you must take this (which is all I can give
you) for what it is worth -
Chapters. - I. A Beggar on Horseback. II. The Highland
Writer. III. I go to Pilrig. IV. Lord Advocate
Prestongrange. V. Butter and Thunder. VI. I make a fault in
honour. VII. The Bravo. VIII. The Heather on Fire. IX. I
begin to be haunted with a red-headed man. X. The Wood by
Silvermills. XI. On the march again with Alan. XII. Gillane
Sands. XIII. The Bass Rock. XIV. Black Andie's Tale of Tod
Lapraik. XV. I go to Inveraray.
That is it, as far as drafted. Chapters IV. V. VII. IX. and
XIV. I am specially pleased with; the last being an
episodical bogie story about the Bass Rock told there by the
MY DEAR S. C., - Take it not amiss if this is a wretched
letter. I am eaten up with business. Every day this week I
have had some business impediment - I am even now waiting a
deputation of chiefs about the road - and my precious morning
was shattered by a polite old scourge of a FAIPULE -
parliament man - come begging. All the time DAVID BALFOUR is
skelping along. I began it the 13th of last month; I have
now 12 chapters, 79 pages ready for press, or within an ace,
and, by the time the month is out, one-half should be
completed, and I'll be back at drafting the second half.
What makes me sick is to think of Scott turning out GUY
MANNERING in three weeks! What a pull of work: heavens, what
thews and sinews! And here am I, my head spinning from
having only re-written seven not very difficult pages - and
not very good when done. Weakling generation. It makes me
sick of myself, to make such a fash and bobbery over a rotten
end of an old nursery yarn, not worth spitting on when done.
Still, there is no doubt I turn out my work more easily than
of yore, and I suppose I should be singly glad of that. And
if I got my book done in six weeks, seeing it will be about
half as long as a Scott, and I have to write everything
twice, it would be about the same rate of industry. It is my
fair intention to be done with it in three months, which
would make me about one-half the man Sir Walter was for
application and driving the dull pen. Of the merit we shall
not talk; but I don't think Davie is WITHOUT merit.
And I have this day triumphantly finished 15 chapters, 100
pages - being exactly one-half (as near as anybody can guess)
of DAVID BALFOUR; the book to be about a fifth as long again
(altogether) as TREASURE ISLAND: could I but do the second
half in another month! But I can't, I fear; I shall have
some belated material arriving by next mail, and must go
again at the History. Is it not characteristic of my broken
tenacity of mind, that I should have left Davie Balfour some
five years in the British Linen Company's Office, and then
follow him at last with such vivacity? But I leave you
again; the last (15th) chapter ought to be re-wrote, or part
of it, and I want the half completed in the month, and the
month is out by midnight; though, to be sure, last month was
February, and I might take grace. These notes are only to
show I hold you in mind, though I know they can have no
interest for man or God or animal.
I should have told you about the Club. We have been asked to
try and start a sort of weekly ball for the half-castes and
natives, ourselves to be the only whites; and we consented,
from a very heavy sense of duty, and with not much hope. Two
nights ago we had twenty people up, received them in the
front verandah, entertained them on cake and lemonade, and I
made a speech - embodying our proposals, or conditions, if
you like - for I suppose thirty minutes. No joke to speak to
such an audience, but it is believed I was thoroughly
intelligible. I took the plan of saying everything at least
twice in a different form of words, so that if the one
escaped my hearers, the other might be seized. One white man
came with his wife, and was kept rigorously on the front
verandah below! You see what a sea of troubles this is like
to prove; but it is the only chance - and when it blows up,
it must blow up! I have no more hope in anything than a dead
frog; I go into everything with a composed despair, and don't
mind - just as I always go to sea with the conviction I am to
be drowned, and like it before all other pleasures. But you
should have seen the return voyage, when nineteen horses had
to be found in the dark, and nineteen bridles, all in a
drench of rain, and the club, just constituted as such,
sailed away in the wet, under a cloudy moon like a bad
shilling, and to descend a road through the forest that was
at that moment the image of a respectable mountain brook. My
wife, who is president WITH POWER TO EXPEL, had to begin her
functions. . . .
Heaven knows what day it is, but I am ashamed, all the more
as your letter from Bournemouth of all places - poor old
Bournemouth! - is to hand, and contains a statement of
pleasure in my letters which I wish I could have rewarded
with a long one. What has gone on? A vast of affairs, of a
mingled, strenuous, inconclusive, desultory character; much
waste of time, much riding to and fro, and little transacted
or at least peracted.
Let me give you a review of the present state of our live
stock. - Six boys in the bush; six souls about the house.
Talolo, the cook, returns again to-day, after an absence
which has cost me about twelve hours of riding, and I suppose
eight hours' solemn sitting in council. 'I am sorry indeed
for the Chief Justice of Samoa,' I said; 'it is more than I
am fit for to be Chief Justice of Vailima.' - Lauilo is
steward. Both these are excellent servants; we gave a
luncheon party when we buried the Samoan bones, and I assure
you all was in good style, yet we never interfered. The food
was good, the wine and dishes went round as by mechanism. -
Steward's assistant and washman Arrick, a New Hebridee black
boy, hired from the German firm; not so ugly as most, but not
pretty neither; not so dull as his sort are, but not quite a
Crichton. When he came first, he ate so much of our good
food that he got a prominent belly. Kitchen assistant, Tomas
(Thomas in English), a Fiji man, very tall and handsome,
moving like a marionette with sudden bounds, and rolling his
eyes with sudden effort. - Washerwoman and precentor, Helen,
Tomas's wife. This is our weak point; we are ashamed of
Helen; the cook-house blushes for her; they murmur there at
her presence. She seems all right; she is not a bad-looking,
strapping wench, seems chaste, is industrious, has an
excellent taste in hymns - you should have heard her read one
aloud the other day, she marked the rhythm with so much
gloating, dissenter sentiment. What is wrong, then? says
you. Low in your ear - and don't let the papers get hold of
it - she is of no family. None, they say; literally a common
woman. Of course, we have out-islanders, who MAY be
villeins; but we give them the benefit of the doubt, which is
impossible with Helen of Vailima; our blot, our pitted speck.
The pitted speck I have said is our precentor. It is always
a woman who starts Samoan song; the men who sing second do
not enter for a bar or two. Poor, dear Faauma, the unchaste,
the extruded Eve of our Paradise, knew only two hymns; but
Helen seems to know the whole repertory, and the morning
prayers go far more lively in consequence. - Lafaele, provost
of the cattle. The cattle are Jack, my horse, quite
converted, my wife rides him now, and he is as steady as a
doctor's cob; Tifaga Jack, a circus horse, my mother's
piebald, bought from a passing circus; Belle's mare, now in
childbed or next door, confound the slut! Musu - amusingly
translated the other day 'don't want to,' literally cross,
but always in the sense of stubbornness and resistance - my
wife's little dark-brown mare, with a white star on her
forehead, whom I have been riding of late to steady her - she
has no vices, but is unused, skittish and uneasy, and wants a
lot of attention and humouring; lastly (of saddle horses)
Luna - not the Latin MOON, the Hawaiian OVERSEER, but it's
pronounced the same - a pretty little mare too, but scarce at
all broken, a bad bucker, and has to be ridden with a stockwhip
and be brought back with her rump criss-crossed like a
clan tartan; the two cart horses, now only used with packsaddles;
two cows, one in the straw (I trust) to-morrow, a
third cow, the Jersey - whose milk and temper are alike
subjects of admiration - she gives good exercise to the
farming saunterer, and refreshes him on his return with
cream; two calves, a bull, and a cow; God knows how many
ducks and chickens, and for a wager not even God knows how
many cats; twelve horses, seven horses, five kine: is not
this Babylon the Great which I have builded? Call it
Two nights ago the club had its first meeting; only twelve
were present, but it went very well. I was not there, I had
ridden down the night before after dinner on my endless
business, took a cup of tea in the Mission like an ass, then
took a cup of coffee like a fool at Haggard's, then fell into
a discussion with the American Consul . . . I went to bed at
Haggard's, came suddenly broad awake, and lay sleepless the
live night. It fell chill, I had only a sheet, and had to
make a light and range the house for a cover - I found one in
the hall, a macintosh. So back to my sleepless bed, and to
lie there till dawn. In the morning I had a longish ride to
take in a day of a blinding, staggering sun, and got home by
eleven, our luncheon hour, with my head rather swimmy; the
only time I have FEARED the sun since I was in Samoa.
However, I got no harm, but did not go to the club, lay off,
lazied, played the pipe, and read - a novel by James Payn -
sometimes quite interesting, and in one place really very
funny with the quaint humour of the man. Much interested the
other day. As I rode past a house, I saw where a Samoan had
written a word on a board, and there was an A, perfectly
formed, but upside down. You never saw such a thing in
Europe; but it is as common as dirt in Polynesia. Men's
names are tattooed on the forearm; it is common to find a
subverted letter tattooed there. Here is a tempting problem
for psychologists.
I am now on terms again with the German Consulate, I know not
for how long; not, of course, with the President, which I
find a relief; still, with the Chief Justice and the English
Consul. For Haggard, I have a genuine affection; he is a
loveable man.
Wearyful man! 'Here is the yarn of Loudon Dodd, NOT AS HE
left out by some carelessness, and I think I have been thrice
tackled about them. Grave them in your mind and wear them on
your forehead.
The Lang story will have very little about the treasure; THE
MASTER will appear; and it is to a great extent a tale of
Prince Charlie AFTER the '45, and a love story forbye: the
hero is a melancholy exile, and marries a young woman who
interests the prince, and there is the devil to pay. I think
the Master kills him in a duel, but don't know yet, not
having yet seen my second heroine. No - the Master doesn't
kill him, they fight, he is wounded, and the Master plays
DEUS EX MACHINA. I THINK just now of calling it THE TAIL OF
THE RACE; no - heavens! I never saw till this moment - but
of course nobody but myself would ever understand Mill-Race,
they would think of a quarter-mile. So - I am nameless
again. My melancholy young man is to be quite a Romeo. Yes,
I'll name the book from him: DYCE OF YTHAN - pronounce
Dyce of Ythan
by R. L. S.
O, Shovel - Shovel waits his turn, he and his ancestors. I
would have tackled him before, but my STATE TRIALS have never
come. So that I have now quite planned:-
Dyce of Ythan. (Historical, 1750.)
Sophia Scarlet. (To-day.)
The Shovels of Newton French. (Historical, 1650 to 1830.)
And quite planned and part written:-
The Pearl Fisher. (To-day.) (With Lloyd a machine.)
David Balfour. (Historical, 1751.)
And, by a strange exception for R. L. S., all in the third
person except D. B.
I don't know what day this is now (the 29th), but I have
finished my two chapters, ninth and tenth, of SAMOA in time
for the mail, and feel almost at peace. The tenth was the
hurricane, a difficult problem; it so tempted one to be
literary; and I feel sure the less of that there is in my
little handbook, the more chance it has of some utility.
Then the events are complicated, seven ships to tell of, and
sometimes three of them together; O, it was quite a job. But
I think I have my facts pretty correct, and for once, in my
sickening yarn, they are handsome facts: creditable to all
concerned; not to be written of - and I should think, scarce
to be read - without a thrill. I doubt I have got no
hurricane into it, the intricacies of the yarn absorbing me
too much. But there - it's done somehow, and time presses
hard on my heels. The book, with my best expedition, may
come just too late to be of use. In which case I shall have
made a handsome present of some months of my life for nothing
and to nobody. Well, through Her the most ancient heavens
are fresh and strong.
After I had written you, I re-read my hurricane, which is
very poor; the life of the journalist is hard, another couple
of writings and I could make a good thing, I believe, and it
must go as it is! But, of course, this book is not written
for honour and glory, and the few who will read it may not
know the difference. Very little time. I go down with the
mail shortly, dine at the Chinese restaurant, and go to the
club to dance with islandresses. Think of my going out once
a week to dance.
Politics are on the full job again, and we don't know what is
to come next. I think the whole treaty RAJ seems quite
played out! They have taken to bribing the FAIPULE men
(parliament men) to stay in Mulinuu, we hear; but I have not
yet sifted the rumour. I must say I shall be scarce
surprised if it prove true; these rumours have the knack of
being right. - Our weather this last month has been
tremendously hot, not by the thermometer, which sticks at 86
degrees, but to the sensation: no rain, no wind, and this the
storm month. It looks ominous, and is certainly
No time to finish,
Yours ever,
R. L. S.
MAY 1ST. 1892.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - As I rode down last night about six, I saw
a sight I must try to tell you of. In front of me, right
over the top of the forest into which I was descending was a
vast cloud. The front of it accurately represented the
somewhat rugged, long-nosed, and beetle-browed profile of a
man, crowned by a huge Kalmuck cap; the flesh part was of a
heavenly pink, the cap, the moustache, the eyebrows were of a
bluish gray; to see this with its childish exactitude of
design and colour, and hugeness of scale - it covered at
least 25 degrees - held me spellbound. As I continued to
gaze, the expression began to change; he had the exact air of
closing one eye, dropping his jaw, and drawing down his nose;
had the thing not been so imposing, I could have smiled; and
then almost in a moment, a shoulder of leaden-coloured bank
drove in front and blotted it. My attention spread to the
rest of the cloud, and it was a thing to worship. It rose
from the horizon, and its top was within thirty degrees of
the zenith; the lower parts were like a glacier in shadow,
varying from dark indigo to a clouded white in exquisite
gradations. The sky behind, so far as I could see, was all
of a blue already enriched and darkened by the night, for the
hill had what lingered of the sunset. But the top of my
Titanic cloud flamed in broad sunlight, with the most
excellent softness and brightness of fire and jewels,
enlightening all the world. It must have been far higher
than Mount Everest, and its glory, as I gazed up at it out of
the night, was beyond wonder. Close by rode the little
crescent moon; and right over its western horn, a great
planet of about equal lustre with itself. The dark woods
below were shrill with that noisy business of the birds'
evening worship. When I returned, after eight, the moon was
near down; she seemed little brighter than before, but now
that the cloud no longer played its part of a nocturnal sun,
we could see that sight, so rare with us at home that it was
counted a portent, so customary in the tropics, of the dark
sphere with its little gilt band upon the belly. The planet
had been setting faster, and was now below the crescent.
They were still of an equal brightness.
I could not resist trying to reproduce this in words, as a
specimen of these incredibly beautiful and imposing meteors
of the tropic sky that make so much of my pleasure here;
though a ship's deck is the place to enjoy them. O what
AWFUL scenery, from a ship's deck, in the tropics! People
talk about the Alps, but the clouds of the trade wind are
alone for sublimity.
Now to try and tell you what has been happening. The state
of these islands, and of Mataafa and Laupepa (Malietoa's
AMBO) had been much on my mind. I went to the priests and
sent a message to Mataafa, at a time when it was supposed he
was about to act. He did not act, delaying in true native
style, and I determined I should go to visit him. I have
been very good not to go sooner; to live within a few miles
of a rebel camp, to be a novelist, to have all my family
forcing me to go, and to refrain all these months, counts for
virtue. But hearing that several people had gone and the
government done nothing to punish them, and having an errand
there which was enough to justify myself in my own eyes, I
half determined to go, and spoke of it with the half-caste
priest. And here (confound it) up came Laupepa and his
guards to call on me; we kept him to lunch, and the old
gentleman was very good and amiable. He asked me why I had
not been to see him? I reminded him a law had been made, and
told him I was not a small boy to go and ask leave of the
consuls, and perhaps be refused. He told me to pay no
attention to the law but come when I would, and begged me to
name a day to lunch. The next day (I think it was) early in
the morning, a man appeared; he had metal buttons like a
policeman - but he was none of our Apia force; he was a rebel
policeman, and had been all night coming round inland through
the forest from Malie. He brought a letter addressed
I LAUA SUSUGA To his Excellency
MISI MEA. Mr. Thingumbob.
(So as not to compromise me). I can read Samoan now, though
not speak it. It was to ask me for last Wednesday. My
difficulty was great; I had no man here who was fit, or who
would have cared to write for me; and I had to postpone the
visit. So I gave up half-a-day with a groan, went down to
the priests, arranged for Monday week to go to Malie, and
named Thursday as my day to lunch with Laupepa. I was
sharply ill on Wednesday, mail day. But on Thursday I had to
trail down and go through the dreary business of a feast, in
the King's wretched shanty, full in view of the President's
fine new house; it made my heart burn.
This gave me my chance to arrange a private interview with
the King, and I decided to ask Mr. Whitmee, one of our
missionaries, to be my interpreter. On Friday, being too
much exhausted to go down, I begged him to come up. He did,
I told him the heads of what I meant to say; and he not only
consented, but said, if we got on well with the King, he
would even proceed with me to Malie. Yesterday, in
consequence, I rode down to W.'s house by eight in the
morning; waited till ten; received a message that the King
was stopped by a meeting with the President and FAIPULE; made
another engagement for seven at night; came up; went down;
waited till eight, and came away again, BREDOUILLE, and a
dead body. The poor, weak, enslaved King had not dared to
come to me even in secret. Now I have to-day for a rest, and
to-morrow to Malie. Shall I be suffered to embark? It is
very doubtful; they are on the trail. On Thursday, a
policeman came up to me and began that a boy had been to see
him, and said I was going to see Mataafa. - 'And what did
you say?' said I. - 'I told him I did not know about where
you were going,' said he. - 'A very good answer,' said I, and
turned away. It is lashing rain to-day, but to-morrow, rain
or shine, I must at least make the attempt; and I am so
weary, and the weather looks so bad. I could half wish they
would arrest me on the beach. All this bother and pother to
try and bring a little chance of peace; all this opposition
and obstinacy in people who remain here by the mere
forbearance of Mataafa, who has a great force within six
miles of their government buildings, which are indeed only
the residences of white officials. To understand how I have
been occupied, you must know that 'Misi Mea' has had another
letter, and this time had to answer himself; think of doing
so in a language so obscure to me, with the aid of a Bible,
concordance and dictionary! What a wonderful Baboo
compilation it must have been! I positively expected to hear
news of its arrival in Malie by the sound of laughter. I
doubt if you will be able to read this scrawl, but I have
managed to scramble somehow up to date; and to-morrow, one
way or another, should be interesting. But as for me, I am a
wreck, as I have no doubt style and handwriting both testify.
8 P.M.
Wonderfully rested; feel almost fit for to-morrow's dreary
excursion - not that it will be dreary if the weather favour,
but otherwise it will be death; and a native feast, and I
fear I am in for a big one, is a thing I loathe. I wonder if
you can really conceive me as a politician in this extramundane
sphere - presiding at public meetings, drafting
proclamations, receiving mis-addressed letters that have been
carried all night through tropical forests? It seems strange
indeed, and to you, who know me really, must seem stranger.
I do not say I am free from the itch of meddling, but God
knows this is no tempting job to meddle in; I smile at
picturesque circumstances like the Misi Mea (MONSIEUR CHOSE
is the exact equivalent) correspondence, but the business as
a whole bores and revolts me. I do nothing and say nothing;
and then a day comes, and I say 'this can go on no longer.'
9.30 P. M.
The wretched native dilatoriness finds me out. News has just
come that we must embark at six to-morrow; I have divided the
night in watches, and hope to be called to-morrow at four and
get under way by five. It is a great chance if it be
managed; but I have given directions and lent my own clock to
the boys, and hope the best. If I get called at four we
shall do it nicely. Good-night; I must turn in.
Well, we did get off by about 5.30, or, by'r lady! quarter of
six: myself on Donald, the huge grey cart-horse, with a shipbag
across my saddle bow, Fanny on Musu and Belle on Jack.
We were all feeling pretty tired and sick, and I looked like
heaven knows what on the cart horse: 'death on the pale
horse,' I suggested - and young Hunt the missionary, who met
me to-day on the same charger, squinted up at my perch and
remarked, 'There's a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft.'
The boat was ready and we set off down the lagoon about
seven, four oars, and Talolo, my cook, steering.
And see what good resolutions came to! Here is all this time
past, and no speed made. Well, we got to Malie and were
received with the most friendly consideration by the rebel
chief. Belle and Fanny were obviously thought to be my two
wives; they were served their kava together, as were Mataafa
and myself. Talolo utterly broke down as interpreter; long
speeches were made to me by Mataafa and his orators, of which
he could make nothing but they were 'very much surprised' -
his way of pronouncing obliged - and as he could understand
nothing that fell from me except the same form of words, the
dialogue languished and all business had to be laid aside.
We had kava, and then a dish of arrowroot; one end of the
house was screened off for us with a fine tapa, and we lay
and slept, the three of us heads and tails, upon the mats
till dinner. After dinner his illegitimate majesty and
myself had a walk, and talked as well as my twopenny Samoan
would admit. Then there was a dance to amuse the ladies
before the house, and we came back by moonlight, the sky
piled full of high faint clouds that long preserved some of
the radiance of the sunset. The lagoon was very shallow; we
continually struck, for the moon was young and the light
baffling; and for a long time we were accompanied by, and
passed and re-passed, a huge whale-boat from Savaii, pulling
perhaps twelve oars, and containing perhaps forty people who
sang in time as they went So to the hotel, where we slept,
and returned the next Tuesday morning on the three same
Meanwhile my business was still untransacted. And on
Saturday morning, I sent down and arranged with Charlie
Taylor to go down that afternoon. I had scarce got the
saddle bags fixed and had not yet mounted, when the rain
began. But it was no use delaying now; off I went in a wild
waterspout to Apia; found Charlie (Sale) Taylor - a
sesquipedalian young half-caste - not yet ready, had a snack
of bread and cheese at the hotel while waiting him, and then
off to Malie. It rained all the way, seven miles; the road,
which begins in triumph, dwindles down to a nasty, boggy,
rocky footpath with weeds up to a horseman's knees; and there
are eight pig fences to jump, nasty beastly jumps - the next
morning we found one all messed with blood where a horse had
come to grief - but my Jack is a clever fencer; and
altogether we made good time, and got to Malie about dark.
It is a village of very fine native houses, high, domed, oval
buildings, open at the sides, or only closed with slatted
Venetians. To be sure, Mataafa's is not the worst. It was
already quite dark within, only a little fire of cocoa-shell
blazed in the midst and showed us four servants; the chief
was in his chapel, whence we heard the sound of chaunting.
Presently he returned; Taylor and I had our soaking clothes
changed, family worship was held, kava brewed, I was
exhibited to the chiefs as a man who had ridden through all
that rain and risked deportation to serve their master; they
were bidden learn my face, and remember upon all occasions to
help and serve me. Then dinner, and politics, and fine
speeches until twelve at night - O, and some more kava - when
I could sit up no longer; my usual bed-time is eight, you
must remember. Then one end of the house was screened off
for me alone, and a bed made - you never saw such a couch - I
believe of nearly fifty (half at least) fine mats, by
Mataafa's daughter, Kalala. Here I reposed alone; and on the
other side of the tafa, Majesty and his household. Armed
guards and a drummer patrolled about the house all night;
they had no shift, poor devils; but stood to arms from sundown
to sun-up.
About four in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of a
whistle pipe blown outside on the dark, very softly and to a
pleasing simple air; I really think I have hit the first
[Fragment of music score which cannot be reproduced]
It sounded very peaceful, sweet and strange in the dark; and
I found this was a part of the routine of my rebel's night,
and it was done (he said) to give good dreams. By a little
before six, Taylor and I were in the saddle again fasting.
My riding boots were so wet I could not get them on, so I
must ride barefoot. The morning was fair but the roads very
muddy, the weeds soaked us nearly to the waist, Sale was
twice spilt at the fences, and we got to Apia a bedraggled
enough pair. All the way along the coast, the pate (small
wooden drum) was beating in the villages and the people
crowding to the churches in their fine clothes. Thence
through the mangrove swamp, among the black mud and the green
mangroves, and the black and scarlet crabs, to Mulinuu, to
the doctor's, where I had an errand, and so to the inn to
breakfast about nine. After breakfast I rode home. Conceive
such an outing, remember the pallid brute that lived in
Skerryvore like a weevil in a biscuit, and receive the
intelligence that I was rather the better for my journey.
Twenty miles ride, sixteen fences taken, ten of the miles in
a drenching rain, seven of them fasting and in the morning
chill, and six stricken hours' political discussions by an
interpreter; to say nothing of sleeping in a native house, at
which many of our excellent literati would look askance of
You are to understand: if I take all this bother, it is not
only from a sense of duty, or a love of meddling - damn the
phrase, take your choice - but from a great affection for
Mataafa. He is a beautiful, sweet old fellow, and he and I
grew quite fulsome on Saturday night about our sentiments. I
had a messenger from him to-day with a flannel undershirt
which I had left behind like a gibbering idiot; and
perpetrated in reply another baboo letter. It rains again
to-day without mercy; blessed, welcome rains, making up for
the paucity of the late wet season; and when the showers
slacken, I can hear my stream roaring in the hollow, and tell
myself that the cacaos are drinking deep. I am desperately
hunted to finish my Samoa book before the mail goes; this
last chapter is equally delicate and necessary. The prayers
of the congregation are requested. Eheu! and it will be
ended before this letter leaves and printed in the States ere
you can read this scribble. The first dinner gong has
SOIFUA! Sleep! long life! as our Samoan salutation of
farewell runs.
Well, the last chapter, by far the most difficult and
ungrateful, is well under way, I have been from six to seven
hours upon it daily since I last wrote; and that is all I
have done forbye working at Samoan rather hard, and going
down on Wednesday evening to the club. I make some progress
now at the language; I am teaching Belle, which clears and
exercises myself. I am particularly taken with the FINESSE
of the pronouns. The pronouns are all dual and plural and
the first person, both in the dual and plural, has a special
exclusive and inclusive form. You can conceive what fine
effects of precision and distinction can be reached in
certain cases. Take Ruth, i. VV. 8 to 13, and imagine how
those pronouns come in; it is exquisitely elegant, and makes
the mouth of the LITTERATEUR to water. I am going to
exercitate my pupil over those verses to-day for pronoun
Yesterday came yours. Well, well, if the dears prefer a
week, why, I'll give them ten days, but the real document,
from which I have scarcely varied, ran for one night. I
think you seem scarcely fair to Wiltshire, who had surely,
under his beast-ignorant ways, right noble qualities. And I
think perhaps you scarce do justice to the fact that this is
a place of realism A OUTRANCE; nothing extenuated or
coloured. Looked at so, is it not, with all its tragic
features, wonderfully idyllic, with great beauty of scene and
circumstance? And will you please to observe that almost all
that is ugly is in the whites? I'll apologise for Papa
Randal if you like; but if I told you the whole truth - for I
did extenuate there! - and he seemed to me essential as a
figure, and essential as a pawn in the game, Wiltshire's
disgust for him being one of the small, efficient motives in
the story. Now it would have taken a fairish dose to disgust
Wiltshire. - Again, the idea of publishing the Beach
substantively is dropped - at once, both on account of
expostulation, and because it measured shorter than I had
expected. And it was only taken up, when the proposed
volume, BEACH DE MAR, petered out. It petered out thus: the
chief of the short stories got sucked into SOPHIA SCARLET -
and Sophia is a book I am much taken with, and mean to get
to, as soon as - but not before - I have done DAVID BALFOUR
and THE YOUNG CHEVALIER. So you see you are like to hear no
more of the Pacific or the nineteenth century for a while.
THE YOUNG CHEVALIER is a story of sentiment and passion,
which I mean to write a little differently from what I have
been doing - if I can hit the key; rather more of a
sentimental tremolo to it. It may thus help to prepare me
for SOPHIA, which is to contain three ladies, and a kind of a
love affair between the heroine and a dying planter who is a
poet! large orders for R. L. S.
O the German taboo is quite over; no soul attempts to support
the C. J. or the President, they are past hope; the whites
have just refused their taxes - I mean the council has
refused to call for them, and if the council consented,
nobody would pay; 'tis a farce, and the curtain is going to
fall briefly. Consequently in my History, I say as little as
may be of the two dwindling stars. Poor devils! I liked the
one, and the other has a little wife, now lying in! There
was no man born with so little animosity as I. When I heard
the C. J. was in low spirits and never left his house, I
could scarce refrain from going to him.
It was a fine feeling to have finished the History; there
ought to be a future state to reward that grind! It's not
literature, you know; only journalism, and pedantic
journalism. I had but the one desire, to get the thing as
right as might be, and avoid false concords - even if that!
And it was more than there was time for. However, there it
is: done. And if Samoa turns up again my book has to be
counted with, being the only narrative extant. Milton and I
- if you kindly excuse the juxtaposition - harnessed
ourselves to strange waggons, and I at least will be found to
have plodded very soberly with my load. There is not even a
good sentence in it, but perhaps - I don't know - it may be
found an honest, clear volume.
Never got a word set down, and continues on Thursday 19th
May, his own marriage day as ever was. News; yes. The C. J.
came up to call on us! After five months' cessation on my
side, and a decidedly painful interchange of letters, I could
not go down - could not - to see him. My three ladies
received him, however; he was very agreeable as usual, but
refused wine, beer, water, lemonade, chocolate and at last a
cigarette. Then my wife asked him, 'So you refuse to break
bread?' and he waved his hands amiably in answer. All my
three ladies received the same impression that he had serious
matters in his mind: now we hear he is quite cock-a-hoop
since the mail came, and going about as before his troubles
darkened. But what did he want with me? 'Tis thought he had
received a despatch - and that he misreads it (so we fully
believe) to the effect that they are to have war ships at
command and can make their little war after all. If it be
so, and they do it, it will be the meanest wanton slaughter
of poor men for the salaries of two white failures. But what
was his errand with me? Perhaps to warn me that unless I
behave he now hopes to be able to pack me off in the CURACOA
when she comes.
I have celebrated my holiday from SAMOA by a plunge at the
beginning of THE YOUNG CHEVALIER. I am afraid my touch is a
little broad in a love story; I can't mean one thing and
write another. As for women, I am no more in any fear of
them; I can do a sort all right; age makes me less afraid of
a petticoat, but I am a little in fear of grossness.
However, this David Balfour's love affair, that's all right -
might be read out to a mothers' meeting - or a daughters'
meeting. The difficulty in a love yarn, which dwells at all
on love, is the dwelling on one string; it is manifold, I
grant, but the root fact is there unchanged, and the
sentiment being very intense, and already very much handled
in letters, positively calls for a little pawing and gracing.
With a writer of my prosaic literalness and pertinency of
point of view, this all shoves toward grossness - positively
even towards the far more damnable CLOSENESS. This has kept
me off the sentiment hitherto, and now I am to try: Lord! Of
course Meredith can do it, and so could Shakespeare; but with
all my romance, I am a realist and a prosaist, and a most
fanatical lover of plain physical sensations plainly and
expressly rendered; hence my perils. To do love in the same
spirit as I did (for instance) D. Balfour's fatigue in the
heather; my dear sir, there were grossness - ready made! And
hence, how to sugar? However, I have nearly done with Marie-
Madeleine, and am in good hopes of Marie-Salome, the real
heroine; the other is only a prologuial heroine to introduce
the hero.
Anyway, the first prologuial episode is done, and Fanny likes
it. There are only four characters; Francis Blair of Balmile
(Jacobite Lord Gladsmuir) my hero; the Master of Ballantrae;
Paradon, a wine-seller of Avignon; Marie-Madeleine his wife.
These two last I am now done with, and I think they are
successful, and I hope I have Balmile on his feet; and the
style seems to be found. It is a little charged and violent;
sins on the side of violence; but I think will carry the
tale. I think it is a good idea so to introduce my hero,
being made love to by an episodic woman. This queer tale - I
mean queer for me - has taken a great hold upon me. Where
the devil shall I go next? This is simply the tale of a COUP
DE TETE of a young man and a young woman; with a nearly,
perhaps a wholly, tragic sequel, which I desire to make
thinkable right through, and sensible; to make the reader, as
far as I shall be able, eat and drink and breathe it. Marie-
Salome des Saintes-Maries is, I think, the heroine's name;
she has got to BE yet: SURSUM CORDA! So has the young
Chevalier, whom I have not yet touched, and who comes next in
order. Characters: Balmile, or Lord Gladsmuir, COMME VOUS
VOULEZ; Prince Charlie; Earl Marischal; Master of Ballantrae;
and a spy, and Dr. Archie Campbell, and a few nondescripts;
then, of women, Marie-Salome and Flora Blair; seven at the
outside; really four full lengths, and I suppose a half-dozen
episodic profiles. How I must bore you with these
ineptitudes! Have patience. I am going to bed; it is (of
all hours) eleven. I have been forced in (since I began to
write to you) to blatter to Fanny on the subject of my
heroine, there being two CRUCES as to her life and history:
how came she alone? and how far did she go with the
Chevalier? The second must answer itself when I get near
enough to see. The first is a back-breaker. Yet I know
there are many reasons why a FILLE DE FAMINE, romantic,
adventurous, ambitious, innocent of the world, might run from
her home in these days; might she not have been threatened
with a convent? might there not be some Huguenot business
mixed in? Here am I, far from books; if you can help me with
a suggestion, I shall say God bless you. She has to be new
run away from a strict family, well-justified in her own wild
but honest eyes, and meeting these three men, Charles Edward,
Marischal, and Balmile, through the accident of a fire at an
inn. She must not run from a marriage, I think; it would
bring her in the wrong frame of mind. Once I can get her,
SOLA, on the highway, all were well with my narrative.
Perpend. And help if you can.
Lafaele, long (I hope) familiar to you, has this day received
the visit of his SON from Tonga; and the SON proves to be a
very pretty, attractive young daughter! I gave all the boys
kava in honour of her arrival; along with a lean, sidewhiskered
Tongan, dimly supposed to be Lafaele's step-father;
and they have been having a good time; in the end of my
verandah, I hear Simi, my present incapable steward, talking
Tongan with the nondescript papa. Simi, our out-door boy,
burst a succession of blood-vessels over our work, and I had
to make a position for the wreck of one of the noblest
figures of a man I ever saw. I believe I may have mentioned
the other day how I had to put my horse to the trot, the
canter and (at last) the gallop to run him down. In a
photograph I hope to send you (perhaps with this) you will
see Simi standing in the verandah in profile. As a steward,
one of his chief points is to break crystal; he is great on
fracture - what do I say? - explosion! He cleans a glass,
and the shards scatter like a comet's bowels.
N.B. - If I should by any chance be deported, the first of
the rules hung up for that occasion is to communicate with
you by telegraph. - Mind, I do not fear it, but it IS
We have had a devil of a morning of upset and bustle; the
bronze candlestick Faauma has returned to the family, in time
to take her position of stepmamma, and it is pretty to see
how the child is at once at home, and all her terrors ended.
And I don't know that I have much to report. I may have to
leave for Malie as soon as these mail packets are made up.
'Tis a necessity (if it be one) I rather deplore. I think I
should have liked to lazy; but I daresay all it means is the
delay of a day or so in harking back to David Balfour; that
respectable youth chides at being left (where he is now) in
Glasgow with the Lord Advocate, and after five years in the
British Linen, who shall blame him? I was all forenoon
yesterday down in Apia,' dictating, and Lloyd type-writing,
the conclusion of SAMOA; and then at home correcting till the
dinner bell; and in the evening again till eleven of the
clock. This morning I have made up most of my packets, and I
think my mail is all ready but two more, and the tag of this.
I would never deny (as D. B might say) that I was rather
tired of it. But I have a damned good dose of the devil in
my pipe-stem atomy; I have had my little holiday outing in my
kick at THE YOUNG CHEVALIER, and I guess I can settle to
DAVID BALFOUR to-morrow or Friday like a little man. I
wonder if any one had ever more energy upon so little
strength? - I know there is a frost, the Samoa book can only
increase that - I can't help it, that book is not written for
me but for Miss Manners; but I mean to break that frost
inside two years, and pull off a big success, and Vanity
whispers in my ear that I have the strength. If I haven't,
whistle ower the lave o't! I can do without glory and
perhaps the time is not far off when I can do without corn.
It is a time coming soon enough, anyway; and I have endured
some two and forty years without public shame, and had a good
time as I did it. If only I could secure a violent death,
what a fine success! I wish to die in my boots; no more Land
of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be
thrown from a horse - ay, to be hanged, rather than pass
again through that slow dissolution.
I fancy this gloomy ramble is caused by a twinge of age; I
put on an under-shirt yesterday (it was the only one I could
find) that barely came under my trousers; and just below it,
a fine healthy rheumatism has now settled like a fire in my
hip. From such small causes do these valuable considerations
I shall now say adieu, dear Sir, having ten rugged miles
before me and the horrors of a native feast and parliament
without an interpreter, for to-day I go alone.
Yours ever,
R. L S.
HOW am I to overtake events? On Wednesday, as soon as my
mail was finished, I had a wild whirl to look forward to.
Immediately after dinner, Belle, Lloyd and I, set out on
horseback, they to the club, I to Haggard's, thence to the
hotel where I had supper ready for them. All next day we
hung round Apia with our whole house-crowd in Sunday array,
hoping for the mail steamer with a menagerie on board. No
such luck; the ship delayed; and at last, about three, I had
to send them home again, a failure of a day's pleasuring that
does not bear to be discussed. Lloyd was so sickened that he
returned the same night to Vailima, Belle and I held on, sat
most of the evening on the hotel verandah stricken silly with
fatigue and disappointment, and genuine sorrow for our poor
boys and girls, and got to bed with rather dismal
appreciations of the morrow.
These were more than justified, and yet I never had a jollier
day than Friday 27th. By 7.30 Belle and I had breakfast; we
had scarce done before my mother was at the door on
horseback, and a boy at her heels to take her not very
dashing charger home again. By 8.10 we were all on the
landing pier, and it was 9.20 before we had got away in a
boat with two inches of green wood on the keel of her, no
rudder, no mast, no sail, no boat flag, two defective
rowlocks, two wretched apologies for oars, and two boys - one
a Tongan half-caste, one a white lad, son of the Tonga
schoolmaster, and a sailor lad - to pull us. All this was
our first taste of the tender mercies of Taylor (the
sesquipidalian half-caste introduced two letters back, I
believe). We had scarce got round Mulinuu when Sale Taylor's
heart misgave him; he thought we had missed the tide; called
a halt, and set off ashore to find canoes. Two were found;
in one my mother and I were embarked with the two biscuit
tins (my present to the feast), and the bag with our dry
clothes, on which my mother was perched - and her cap was on
the top of it - feminine hearts please sympathise; all under
the guidance of Sale. In the other Belle and our guest;
Tauilo, a chief-woman, the mother of my cook, were to have
followed. And the boys were to have been left with the boat.
But Tauilo refused. And the four, Belle, Tauilo, Frank the
sailor-boy, and Jimmie the Tongan half-caste, set off in the
boat across that rapidly shoaling bay of the lagoon.
How long the next scene lasted, I could never tell. Sale was
always trying to steal away with our canoe and leave the
other four, probably for six hours, in an empty, leaky boat,
without so much as an orange or a cocoanut on board, and
under the direct rays of the sun. I had at last to stop him
by taking the spare paddle off the out-rigger and sticking it
in the ground - depth, perhaps two feet - width of the bay,
say three miles. At last I bid him land me and my mother and
go back for the other ladies. 'The coast is so rugged,' said
Sale. - 'What?' I said, 'all these villages and no landing
place?' - 'Such is the nature of Samoans,' said he. Well,
I'll find a landing-place, I thought; and presently I said,
'Now we are going to land there.' - 'We can but try,' said
the bland Sale, with resignation. Never saw a better
landing-place in my life. Here the boat joined us. My
mother and Sale continued in the canoe alone, and Belle and I
and Tauilo set off on foot for Malie. Tauilo was about the
size of both of us put together and a piece over; she used us
like a mouse with children. I had started barefoot; Belle
had soon to pull off her gala shoes and stockings; the mud
was as deep as to our knees, and so slippery that (moving, as
we did, in Indian file, between dense scratching tufts of
sensitive) Belle and I had to take hands to support each
other, and Tauilo was steadying Belle from the rear. You can
conceive we were got up to kill, Belle in an embroidered
white dress and white hat, I in a suit of Bedford cords hot
from the Sydney tailors; and conceive us, below, ink-black to
the knees with adhesive clay, and above, streaming with heat.
I suppose it was better than three miles, but at last we made
the end of Malie. I asked if we could find no water to wash
our feet; and our nursemaid guided us to a pool. We sat down
on the pool side, and our nursemaid washed our feet and legs
for us - ladies first, I suppose out of a sudden respect to
the insane European fancies: such a luxury as you can scarce
imagine. I felt a new man after it. But before we got to
the King's house we were sadly muddied once more. It was 1
P.M. when we arrived, the canoe having beaten us by about
five minutes, so we made fair time over our bog-holes.
But the war dances were over, and we came in time to see only
the tail end (some two hours) of the food presentation. In
Mataafa's house three chairs were set for us covered with
fine mats. Of course, a native house without the blinds down
is like a verandah. All the green in front was surrounded
with sheds, some of flapping canvas, some of green palm
boughs, where (in three sides of a huge oblong) the natives
sat by villages in a fine glow of many-hued array. There
were folks in tapa, and folks in patchwork; there was every
colour of the rainbow in a spot or a cluster; there were men
with their heads gilded with powdered sandal-wood, others
with heads all purple, stuck full of the petals of a flower.
In the midst there was a growing field of outspread food,
gradually covering acres; the gifts were brought in, now by
chanting deputations, now by carriers in a file; they were
brandished aloft and declaimed over, with polite sacramental
exaggerations, by the official receiver. He, a stalwart,
well-oiled quadragenarian, shone with sweat from his
exertions, brandishing cooked pigs. At intervals, from one
of the squatted villages, an orator would arise. The field
was almost beyond the reach of any human speaking voice; the
proceedings besides continued in the midst; yet it was
possible to catch snatches of this elaborate and cut-and-dry
oratory - it was possible for me, for instance, to catch the
description of my gift and myself as the ALII TUSITALA, O LE
ALII O MALO TETELE - the chief White Information, the chief
of the great Governments. Gay designation? In the house, in
our three curule chairs, we sat and looked on. On our left a
little group of the family. In front of us, at our feet, an
ancient Talking-man, crowned with green leaves, his profile
almost exactly Dante's; Popo his name. He had worshipped
idols in his youth; he had been full grown before the first
missionary came hither from Tahiti; this makes him over
eighty. Near by him sat his son and colleague. In the group
on our left, his little grandchild sat with her legs crossed
and her hands turned, the model already (at some three years
old) of Samoan etiquette. Still further off to our right,
Mataafa sat on the ground through all the business; and still
I saw his lips moving, and the beads of his rosary slip
stealthily through his hand. We had kava, and the King's
drinking was hailed by the Popos (father and son) with a
singular ululation, perfectly new to my ears; it means, to
the expert, 'Long live Tuiatua'; to the inexpert, is a mere
voice of barbarous wolves. We had dinner, retired a bit
behind the central pillar of the house; and, when the King
was done eating, the ululation was repeated. I had my eyes
on Mataafa's face, and I saw pride and gratified ambition
spring to life there and be instantly sucked in again. It
was the first time, since the difference with Laupepa, that
Popo and his son had openly joined him, and given him the due
cry as Tuiatua - one of the eight royal names of the islands,
as I hope you will know before this reaches you.
Not long after we had dined, the food-bringing was over. The
gifts (carefully noted and tallied as they came in) were now
announced by a humorous orator, who convulsed the audience,
introducing singing notes, now on the name of the article,
now on the number; six thousand odd heads of taro, three
hundred and nineteen cooked pigs; and one thing that
particularly caught me (by good luck), a single turtle 'for
the King' - LE TASI MO LE TUPU. Then came one of the
strangest sights I have yet witnessed. The two most
important persons there (bar Mataafa) were Popo and his son.
They rose, holding their long shod rods of talking men,
passed forth from the house, broke into a strange dance, the
father capering with outstretched arms and rod, the son
crouching and gambolling beside him in a manner
indescribable, and presently began to extend the circle of
this dance among the acres of cooked food. WHATEVER THEY
mediaeval Dante thus demean himself struck a kind of a chill
of incongruity into our Philistine souls; but even in a great
part of the Samoan concourse, these antique and (I
understand) quite local manners awoke laughter. One of my
biscuit tins and a live calf were among the spoils he
claimed, but the large majority of the cooked food (having
once proved his dignity) he re-presented to the King.
Then came the turn of LE ALII TUSITALA. He would not dance,
but he was given - five live hens, four gourds of oil, four
fine tapas, a hundred heads of taro, two cooked pigs, a
cooked shark, two or three cocoanut branches strung with
kava, and the turtle, who soon after breathed his last, I
believe, from sunstroke. It was a royal present for 'the
chief of the great powers.' I should say the gifts were, on
the proper signal, dragged out of the field of food by a
troop of young men, all with their lava-lavas kilted almost
into a loin-cloth. The art is to swoop on the food-field,
pick up with unerring swiftness the right things and
quantities, swoop forth again on the open, and separate,
leaving the gifts in a new pile: so you may see a covey of
birds in a corn-field. This reminds me of a very inhumane
but beautiful passage I had forgotten in its place. The
gift-giving was still in full swing, when there came a troop
of some ninety men all in tafa lava-lavas of a purplish
colour; they paused, and of a sudden there went up from them
high into the air a flight of live chickens, which, as they
came down again, were sent again into the air, for perhaps a
minute, from the midst of a singular turmoil of flying arms
and shouting voices; I assure you, it was very beautiful to
see, but how many chickens were killed?
No sooner was my food set out than I was to be going. I had
a little serious talk with Mataafa on the floor, and we went
down to the boat, where we got our food aboard, such a cargo
- like the Swiss Family Robinson, we said. However, a squall
began, Tauilo refused to let us go, and we came back to the
house for half-an-hour or so, when my ladies distinguished
themselves by walking through a Fono (council), my mother
actually taking up a position between Mataafa and Popo! It
was about five when we started - turtle, pigs, taro, etc., my
mother, Belle, myself, Tauilo, a portly friend of hers with
the voice of an angel, and a pronunciation so delicate and
true that you could follow Samoan as she sang, and the two
tired boys Frank and Jimmie, with the two bad oars and the
two slippery rowlocks to impel the whole. Sale Taylor took
the canoe and a strong Samoan to paddle him. Presently after
he went inshore, and passed us a little after, with his arms
folded, and TWO strong Samoans impelling him Apia-ward. This
was too much for Belle, who hailed, taunted him, and made him
return to the boat with one of the Samoans, setting Jimmie
instead in the canoe. Then began our torment, Sale and the
Samoan took the oars, sat on the same thwart (where they
could get no swing on the boat had they tried), and
deliberately ladled at the lagoon. We lay enchanted. Night
fell; there was a light visible on shore; it did not move.
The two women sang, Belle joining them in the hymns she has
learned at family worship. Then a squall came up; we sat a
while in roaring midnight under rivers of rain, and, when it
blew by, there was the light again, immovable. A second
squall followed, one of the worst I was ever out in; we could
scarce catch our breath in the cold, dashing deluge. When it
went, we were so cold that the water in the bottom of the
boat (which I was then baling) seemed like a warm footbath in
comparison, and Belle and I, who were still barefoot, were
quite restored by laving in it.
All this time I had kept my temper, and refrained as far as
might be from any interference, for I saw (in our friend's
mulish humour) he always contrived to twist it to our
disadvantage. But now came the acute point. Young Frank now
took an oar. He was a little fellow, near as frail as
myself, and very short; if he weighed nine stone, it was the
outside; but his blood was up. He took stroke, moved the big
Samoan forward to bow, and set to work to pull him round in
fine style. Instantly a kind of race competition - almost
race hatred - sprang up. We jeered the Samoan. Sale
declared it was the trim of the boat: 'if this lady was aft'
(Tauilo's portly friend) 'he would row round Frank.' We
insisted on her coming aft, and Frank still rowed round the
Samoan. When the Samoan caught a crab (the thing was
continual with these wretched oars and rowlocks), we shouted
and jeered; when Frank caught one, Sale and the Samoan jeered
and yelled. But anyway the boat moved, and presently we got
up with Mulinuu, where I finally lost my temper, when I found
that Sale proposed to go ashore and make a visit - in fact,
we all three did. It is not worth while going into, but I
must give you one snatch of the subsequent conversation as we
pulled round Apia bay. 'This Samoan,' said Sale, 'received
seven German bullets in the field of Fangalii.' 'I am
delighted to hear it,' said Belle. 'His brother was killed
there,' pursued Sale; and Belle, prompt as an echo, 'Then
there are no more of the family? how delightful!' Sale was
sufficiently surprised to change the subject; he began to
praise Frank's rowing with insufferable condescension: 'But
it is after all not to be wondered at,' said he, 'because he
has been for some time a sailor. My good man, is it three or
five years that you have been to sea?' And Frank, in a
defiant shout: 'Two!' Whereupon, so high did the ill-feeling
run, that we three clapped and applauded and shouted, so that
the President (whose house we were then passing) doubtless
started at the sounds. It was nine when we got to the hotel;
at first no food was to be found, but we skirmished up some
bread and cheese and beer and brandy; and (having changed our
wet clothes for the rather less wet in our bags) supped on
the verandah.
SATURDAY 28TH. I was wakened about 6.30, long past my usual
hour, by a benevolent passer-by. My turtle lay on the
verandah at my door, and the man woke me to tell me it was
dead, as it had been when we put it on board the day before.
All morning I ran the gauntlet of men and women coming up to
me: 'Mr. Stevenson, your turtle is dead.' I gave half of it
to the hotel keeper, so that his cook should cut it up; and
we got a damaged shell, and two splendid meals, beefsteak one
day and soup the next. The horses came for us about 9.30.
It was waterspouting; we were drenched before we got out of
the town; the road was a fine going Highland trout stream; it
thundered deep and frequent, and my mother's horse would not
better on a walk. At last she took pity on us, and very
nobly proposed that Belle and I should ride ahead. We were
mighty glad to do so, for we were cold. Presently, I said I
should ride back for my mother, but it thundered again, Belle
is afraid of thunder, and I decided to see her through the
forest before I returned for my other hen - I may say, my
other wet hen. About the middle of the wood, where it is
roughest and steepest, we met three pack-horses with barrels
of lime-juice. I piloted Belle past these - it is not very
easy in such a road - and then passed them again myself, to
pilot my mother. This effected, it began to thunder again,
so I rode on hard after Belle. When I caught up with her,
she was singing Samoan hymns to support her terrors! We were
all back, changed, and at table by lunch time, 11 A.M. Nor
have any of us been the worse for it sinsyne. That is pretty
good for a woman of my mother's age and an invalid of my
standing; above all, as Tauilo was laid up with a bad cold,
probably increased by rage.
On Wednesday the club could not be held, and I must ride down
town and to and fro all afternoon delivering messages, then
dined and rode up by the young moon. I had plenty news when
I got back; there is great talk in town of my deportation: it
is thought they have written home to Downing Street
requesting my removal, which leaves me not much alarmed; what
I do rather expect is that H. J. Moors and I may be haled up
before the C. J. to stand a trial for LESE-Majesty. Well,
we'll try and live it through.
The rest of my history since Monday has been unadulterated
DAVID BALFOUR. In season and out of season, night and day,
David and his innocent harem - let me be just, he never has
more than the two - are on my mind. Think of David Balfour
with a pair of fair ladies - very nice ones too - hanging
round him. I really believe David is as a good character as
anybody has a right to ask for in a novel. I have finished
drafting Chapter XX. to-day, and feel it all ready to froth
when the spigot is turned.
O I forgot - and do forget. What did I mean? A waft of
cloud has fallen on my mind, and I will write no more.
Lots of David, and lots of David, and the devil any other
news. Yesterday we were startled by great guns firing a
salute, and to-day Whitmee (missionary) rode up to lunch, and
we learned it was the CURACOA come in, the ship (according to
rumour) in which I was to be deported. I went down to meet
my fate, and the captain is to dine with me Saturday, so I
guess I am not going this voyage. Even with the
particularity with which I write to you, how much of my life
goes unexpressed; my troubles with a madman by the name of -,
a genuine living lunatic, I believe, and jolly dangerous; my
troubles about poor -, all these have dropped out; yet for
moments they were very instant, and one of them is always
present with me.
I have finished copying Chapter XXI. of David - 'SOLUS CUM
SOLA; we travel together.' Chapter XXII., 'SOLUS CUM SOLA;
we keep house together,' is already drafted. To the end of
XXI. makes more than 150 pages of my manuscript - damn this
hair - and I only designed the book to run to about 200; but
when you introduce the female sect, a book does run away with
you. I am very curious to see what you will think of my two
girls. My own opinion is quite clear; I am in love with
both. I foresee a few pleasant years of spiritual
flirtations. The creator (if I may name myself, for the sake
of argument, by such a name) is essentially unfaithful. For
the duration of the two chapters in which I dealt with Miss
Grant, I totally forgot my heroine, and even - but this is a
flat secret - tried to win away David. I think I must try
some day to marry Miss Grant. I'm blest if I don't think
I've got that hair out! which seems triumph enough; so I
Your infinitesimal correspondence has reached me, and I have
the honour to refer to it with scorn. It contains only one
statement of conceivable interest, that your health is
better; the rest is null, and so far as disquisitory unsound.
I am all right, but David Balfour is ailing; this came from
my visit to the man-of-war, where I had a cup of tea, and the
most of that night walked the verandah with extraordinary
convictions of guilt and ruin, many of which (but not all)
proved to have fled with the day, taking David along with
them; he R.I.P. in Chapter XXII.
On Saturday I went down to the town, and fetched up Captain
Gibson to dinner; Sunday I was all day at Samoa, and had a
pile of visitors. Yesterday got my mail, including your
despicable sheet; was fooled with a visit from the high chief
Asi, went down at 4 P.M. to my Samoan lesson from Whitmee - I
think I shall learn from him, he does not fool me with
cockshot rules that are demolished next day, but professes
ignorance like a man; the truth is, the grammar has still to
be expiscated - dined with Haggard, and got home about nine.
The excellent Clarke up here almost all day yesterday, a man
I esteem and like to the soles of his boots; I prefer him to
anyone in Samoa, and to most people in the world; a real good
missionary, with the inestimable advantage of having grown up
a layman. Pity they all can't get that! It recalls my old
proposal, which delighted Lady Taylor so much, that every
divinity student should be thirty years old at least before
he was admitted. Boys switched out of college into a pulpit,
what chance have they? That any should do well amazes me,
and the most are just what was to be expected.
I must tell you of our feast. It was long promised to the
boys, and came off yesterday in one of their new houses. My
good Simele arrived from Savaii that morning asking for
political advice; then we had Tauilo; Elena's father, a
talking man of Tauilo's family; Talolo's cousin; and a boy of
Simele's family, who attended on his dignity; then Metu, the
meat-man - you have never heard of him, but he is a great
person in our household - brought a lady and a boy - and
there was another infant - eight guests in all. And we sat
down thirty strong. You should have seen our procession,
going (about two o'clock), all in our best clothes, to the
hall of feasting! All in our Sunday's best. The new house
had been hurriedly finished; the rafters decorated with
flowers; the floor spread, native style, with green leaves;
we had given a big porker, twenty-five pounds of fresh beef,
a tin of biscuit, cocoanuts, etc. Our places were all
arranged with much care; the native ladies of the house
facing our party; the sides filled up by the men; the guests,
please observe: the two chief people, male and female, were
placed with our family, the rest between S. and the native
ladies. After the feast was over, we had kava, and the
calling of the kava was a very elaborate affair, and I
thought had like to have made Simele very angry; he is really
a considerable chief, but he and Tauilo were not called till
after all our family, AND THE GUESTS, I suppose the principle
being that he was still regarded as one of the household. I
forgot to say that our black boy did not turn up when the
feast was ready. Off went the two cooks, found him,
decorated him with huge red hibiscus flowers - he was in a
very dirty under shirt - brought him back between them like a
reluctant maid, and, thrust him into a place between Faauma
and Elena, where he was petted and ministered to. When his
turn came in the kava drinking - and you may be sure, in
their contemptuous, affectionate kindness for him, as for a
good dog, it came rather earlier than it ought - he was cried
under a new name. ALEKI is what they make of his own name
Arrick; but instead of
{ the cup of }
{'le ipu o }
Aleki!' it was called 'le ipu o VAILIMA' and it was explained
that he had 'taken his chief-name'! a jest at which the
plantation still laughs. Kava done, I made a little speech,
Henry translating. If I had been well, I should have alluded
to all, but I was scarce able to sit up; so only alluded to
my guest of all this month, the Tongan, Tomas, and to Simele,
partly for the jest of making him translate compliments to
himself. The talking man replied with many handsome
compliments to me, in the usual flood of Samoan fluent
neatness; and we left them to an afternoon of singing and
dancing. Must stop now, as my right hand is very bad again.
I am trying to write with my left.
About half-past eight last night, I had gone to my own room,
Fanny and Lloyd were in Fanny's, every one else in bed, only
two boys on the premises - the two little brown boys Mitaiele
(Michael), age I suppose 11 or 12, and the new steward, a
Wallis islander, speaking no English and about fifty words of
Samoan, recently promoted from the bush work, and a most
good, anxious, timid lad of 15 or 16 - looks like 17 or 18,
of course - they grow fast here. In comes Mitaiele to Lloyd,
and told some rigmarole about Paatalise (the steward's name)
wanting to go and see his family in the bush. - 'But he has
no family in the bush,' said Lloyd. 'No,' said Mitaiele.
They went to the boy's bed (they sleep in the walled-in
compartment of the verandah, once my dressing-room) and
called at once for me. He lay like one asleep, talking in
drowsy tones but without excitement, and at times 'cheeping'
like a frightened mouse; he was quite cool to the touch, and
his pulse not fast; his breathing seemed wholly ventral; the
bust still, the belly moving strongly. Presently he got from
his bed, and ran for the door, with his head down not three
feet from the floor and his body all on a stretch forward,
like a striking snake: I say 'ran,' but this strange movement
was not swift. Lloyd and I mastered him and got him back in
bed. Soon there was another and more desperate attempt to
escape, in which Lloyd had his ring broken. Then we bound
him to the bed humanely with sheets, ropes, boards and
pillows. He lay there and sometimes talked, sometimes
whispered, sometimes wept like an angry child; his principal
word was 'Faamolemole' - 'Please' - and he kept telling us at
intervals that his family were calling him. During this
interval, by the special grace of God, my boys came home; we
had already called in Arrick, the black boy; now we had that
Hercules, Lafaele, and a man Savea, who comes from
Paatalise's own island and can alone communicate with him
freely. Lloyd went to bed, I took the first watch, and sat
in my room reading, while Lafaele and Arrick watched the
madman. Suddenly Arrick called me; I ran into the verandah;
there was Paatalise free of all his bonds and Lafaele holding
him. To tell what followed is impossible. We were five
people at him - Lafaele and Savea, very strong men, Lloyd, I
and Arrick, and the struggle lasted until 1 A.M. before we
had him bound. One detail for a specimen: Lloyd and I had
charge of one leg, we were both sitting on it, and lo! we
were both tossed into the air - I, I daresay, a couple of
feet. At last we had him spread-eagled to the iron bedstead,
by his wrists and ankles, with matted rope; a most inhumane
business, but what could we do? it was all we could do to
manage it even so. The strength of the paroxysms had been
steadily increasing, and we trembled for the next. And now I
come to pure Rider Haggard. Lafaele announced that the boy
was very bad, and he would get 'some medicine' which was a
family secret of his own. Some leaves were brought
mysteriously in; chewed, placed on the boy's eyes, dropped in
his ears (see Hamlet) and stuck up his nostrils; as he did
this, the weird doctor partly smothered the patient with his
hand; and by about 2 A.M. he was in a deep sleep, and from
that time he showed no symptom of dementia whatever. The
medicine (says Lafaele) is principally used for the wholesale
slaughter of families; he himself feared last night that his
dose was fatal; only one other person, on this island, knows
the secret; and she, Lafaele darkly whispers, has abused it.
This remarkable tree we must try to identify.
The man-of-war doctor came up to-day, gave us a straitwaistcoat,
taught us to bandage, examined the boy and saw he
was apparently well - he insisted on doing his work all
morning, poor lad, and when he first came down kissed all the
family at breakfast! The Doctor was greatly excited, as may
be supposed, about Lafaele's medicine.
All yesterday writing my mail by the hand of Belle, to save
my wrist. This is a great invention, to which I shall stick,
if it can be managed. We had some alarm about Paatalise, but
he slept well all night for a benediction. This lunatic
asylum exercise has no attractions for any of us.
I don't know if I remembered to say how much pleased I was
with ACROSS THE PLAINS in every way, inside and out, and you
and me. The critics seem to taste it, too, as well as could
be hoped, and I believe it will continue to bring me in a few
shillings a year for a while. But such books pay only
To understand the full horror of the mad scene, and how well
my boys behaved, remember that THEY BELIEVED P.'S RAVINGS,
they KNEW that his dead family, thirty strong, crowded the
front verandah and called on him to come to the other world.
They KNEW that his dead brother had met him that afternoon in
the bush and struck him on both temples. And remember! we
are fighting the dead, and they had to go out again in the
black night, which is the dead man's empire. Yet last
evening, when I thought P. was going to repeat the
performance, I sent down for Lafaele, who had leave of
absence, and he and his wife came up about eight o'clock with
a lighted brand. These are the things for which I have to
forgive my old cattle-man his manifold shortcomings; they are
heroic - so are the shortcomings, to be sure.
It came over me the other day suddenly that this diary of
mine to you would make good pickings after I am dead, and a
man could make some kind of a book out of it without much
trouble. So, for God's sake, don't lose them, and they will
prove a piece of provision for my 'poor old family,' as
Simele calls it.
About my coming to Europe, I get more and more doubtful, and
rather incline to Ceylon again as place of meeting. I am so
absurdly well here in the tropics, that it seems like
affectation. Yet remember I have never once stood Sydney.
Anyway, I shall have the money for it all ahead, before I
think of such a thing.
We had a bowl of Punch on your birthday, which my incredible
mother somehow knew and remembered.
I sometimes sit and yearn for anything in the nature of an
income that would come in - mine has all got to be gone and
fished for with the immortal mind of man. What I want is the
income that really comes in of itself while all you have to
do is just to blossom and exist and sit on chairs. Think how
beautiful it would be not to have to mind the critics, and
not even the darkest of the crowd - Sidney Colvin. I should
probably amuse myself with works that would make your hair
curl, if you had any left.
R. L S.
THE character of my handwriting is explained, alas! by
scrivener's cramp. This also explains how long I have let
the paper lie plain.
1 P. M.
I was busy copying David Balfour with my left hand - a most
laborious task - Fanny was down at the native house
superintending the floor, Lloyd down in Apia, and Belle in
her own house cleaning, when I heard the latter calling on my
name. I ran out on the verandah; and there on the lawn
beheld my crazy boy with an axe in his hand and dressed out
in green ferns, dancing. I ran downstairs and found all my
house boys on the back verandah, watching him through the
dining-room. I asked what it meant? - 'Dance belong his
place,' they said. - 'I think this no time to dance,' said I.
'Has he done his work?' - 'No,' they told me, 'away bush all
morning.' But there they all stayed on the back verandah. I
went on alone through the dining-room, and bade him stop. He
did so, shouldered the axe, and began to walk away; but I
called him back, walked up to him, and took the axe out of
his unresisting hands. The boy is in all things so good,
that I can scarce say I was afraid; only I felt it had to be
stopped ere he could work himself up by dancing to some
craziness. Our house boys protested they were not afraid;
all I know is they were all watching him round the back door
and did not follow me till I had the axe. As for the out
boys, who were working with Fanny in the native house, they
thought it a very bad business, and made no secret of their
I have no account to give of my stewardship these days, and
there's a day more to account for than mere arithmetic would
tell you. For we have had two Monday Fourths, to bring us at
last on the right side of the meridian, having hitherto been
an exception in the world and kept our private date.
Business has filled my hours sans intermission.
I am doing no work and my mind is in abeyance. Fanny and
Belle are sewing-machining in the next room; I have been
pulling down their hair, and Fanny has been kicking me, and
now I am driven out. Austin I have been chasing about the
verandah; now he has gone to his lessons, and I make believe
to write to you in despair. But there is nothing in my mind;
I swim in mere vacancy, my head is like a rotten nut; I shall
soon have to begin to work again or I shall carry away some
part of the machinery. I have got your insufficient letter,
for which I scorn to thank you. I have had no review by
Gosse, none by Birrell; another time if I have a letter in
the TIMES, you might send me the text as well; also please
send me a cricket bat and a cake, and when I come home for
the holidays, I should like to have a pony.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
P.S. I am quite well; I hope you are quite well. The world
is too much with us, and my mother bids me bind my hair and
lace my bodice blue.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is Friday night, the (I believe) 18th
or 20th August or September. I shall probably regret tomorrow
having written you with my own hand like the Apostle
Paul. But I am alone over here in the workman's house, where
I and Belle and Lloyd and Austin are pigging; the rest are at
cards in the main residence. I have not joined them because
'belly belong me' has been kicking up, and I have just taken
15 drops of laudanum.
On Tuesday, the party set out - self in white cap, velvet
coat, cords and yellow half boots, Belle in a white kind of
suit and white cap to match mine, Lloyd in white clothes and
long yellow boots and a straw hat, Graham in khakis and
gaiters, Henry (my old overseer) in blue coat and black kilt,
and the great Lafaele with a big ship-bag on his saddle-bow.
We left the mail at the P. O., had lunch at the hotel, and
about 1.50 set out westward to the place of tryst. This was
by a little shrunken brook in a deep channel of mud on the
far side of which, in a thicket of low trees, all full of
moths of shadow and butterflies of sun, we lay down to await
her ladyship. Whiskey and water, then a sketch of the
encampment for which we all posed to Belle, passed off the
time until 3.30. Then I could hold on no longer. 30 minutes
late. Had the secret oozed out? Were they arrested? I got
my horse, crossed the brook again, and rode hard back to the
Vaea cross roads, whence I was aware of white clothes
glancing in the other long straight radius of the quadrant.
I turned at once to return to the place of tryst; but D.
overtook me, and almost bore me down, shouting 'Ride, ride!'
like a hero in a ballad. Lady Margaret and he were only come
to shew the place; they returned, and the rest of our party,
reinforced by Captain Leigh and Lady Jersey, set on for
Malie. The delay was due to D.'s infinite precautions,
leading them up lanes, by back ways, and then down again to
the beach road a hundred yards further on.
It was agreed that Lady Jersey existed no more; she was now
my cousin Amelia Balfour. That relative and I headed the
march; she is a charming woman, all of us like her extremely
after trial on this somewhat rude and absurd excursion. And
we Amelia'd or Miss Balfour'd her with great but intermittent
fidelity. When we came to the last village, I sent Henry on
ahead to warn the King of our approach and amend his
discretion, if that might be. As he left I heard the
villagers asking WHICH WAS THE GREAT LADY? And a little
further, at the borders of Malie itself, we found the guard
making a music of bugles and conches. Then I knew the game
was up and the secret out. A considerable guard of honour,
mostly children, accompanied us; but, for our good fortune,
we had been looked for earlier, and the crowd was gone.
Dinner at the King's; he asked me to say grace, I could think
of none - never could; Graham suggested BENEDICTUS BENEDICAT,
at which I leaped. We were nearly done, when old Popo
inflicted the Atua howl (of which you have heard already)
right at Lady Jersey's shoulder. She started in fine style.
- 'There,' I said, 'we have been giving you a chapter of
Scott, but this goes beyond the Waverley Novels.' After
dinner, kava. Lady J. was served before me, and the King
DRANK LAST; it was the least formal kava I ever saw in that
house, - no names called, no show of ceremony. All my ladies
are well trained, and when Belle drained her bowl, the King
was pleased to clap his hands. Then he and I must retire for
our private interview, to another house. He gave me his own
staff and made me pass before him; and in the interview,
which was long and delicate, he twice called me AFIOGA. Ah,
that leaves you cold, but I am Samoan enough to have been
moved. SUSUGA is my accepted rank; to be called AFIOGA -
Heavens! what an advance - and it leaves Europe cold. But it
staggered my Henry. The first time it was complicated 'lana
susuga MA lana afioga - his excellency AND his majesty' - the
next time plain Majesty. Henry then begged to interrupt the
interview and tell who he was - he is a small family chief in
Sawaii, not very small - 'I do not wish the King,' says he,
'to think me a boy from Apia.' On our return to the palace,
we separated. I had asked for the ladies to sleep alone -
that was understood; but that Tusitala - his afioga Tusitala
- should go out with the other young men, and not sleep with
the highborn females of his family - was a doctrine received
with difficulty. Lloyd and I had one screen, Graham and
Leigh another, and we slept well.
In the morning I was first abroad before dawn; not very long,
already there was a stir of birds. A little after, I heard
singing from the King's chapel - exceeding good - and went
across in the hour when the east is yellow and the morning
bank is breaking up, to hear it nearer. All about the
chapel, the guards were posted, and all saluted Tusitala. I
could not refrain from smiling: 'So there is a place too,' I
thought, 'where sentinels salute me.' Mine has been a queer
[Drawing in book reproduced here in characters...]
E The X
D i Kava X
Breakfast was rather a protracted business. And that was
scarce over when we were called to the great house (now
finished - recall your earlier letters) to see a royal kava.
This function is of rare use; I know grown Samoans who have
never witnessed it. It is, besides, as you are to hear, a
piece of prehistoric history, crystallised in figures, and
the facts largely forgotten; an acted hieroglyph. The house
is really splendid; in the rafters in the midst, two carved
and coloured model birds are posted; the only thing of the
sort I have ever remarked in Samoa, the Samoans being literal
observers of the second commandment. At one side of the egg
our party sat. a=Mataafa, b=Lady J., c=Belle, d=Tusitala,
e=Graham, f=Lloyd, g=Captain Leigh, h=Henry, i=Popo. The x's
round are the high chiefs, each man in his historical
position. One side of the house is set apart for the King
alone; we were allowed there as his guests and Henry as our
interpreter. It was a huge trial to the lad, when a speech
was made to me which he must translate, and I made a speech
in answer which he had to orate, full-breathed, to that big
circle; he blushed through his dark skin, but looked and
acted like a gentleman and a young fellow of sense; then the
kava came to the King; he poured one drop in libation, drank
another, and flung the remainder outside the house behind
him. Next came the turn of the old shapeless stone marked T.
It stands for one of the King's titles, Tamasoalii; Mataafa
is Tamasoalii this day, but cannot drink for it; and the
stone must first be washed with water, and then have the bowl
emptied on it. Then - the order I cannot recall - came the
turn of y and z, two orators of the name of Malietoa; the
first took his kava down plain, like an ordinary man; the
second must be packed to bed under a big sheet of tapa, and
be massaged by anxious assistants and rise on his elbow
groaning to drink his cup. W., a great hereditary war man,
came next; five times the cup-bearers marched up and down the
house and passed the cup on, five times it was filled and the
General's name and titles heralded at the bowl, and five
times he refused it (after examination) as too small. It is
said this commemorates a time when Malietoa at the head of
his army suffered much for want of supplies. Then this same
military gentleman must DRINK five cups, one from each of the
great names: all which took a precious long time. He acted
very well, haughtily and in a society tone OUTLINING THE
part. The difference was marked when he subsequently made a
speech in his own character as a plain God-fearing chief. A
few more high chiefs, then Tusitala; one more, and then Lady
Jersey; one more, and then Captain Leigh, and so on with the
rest of our party - Henry of course excepted. You see in
public, Lady Jersey followed me - just so far was the secret
Then we came home; Belle, Graham and Lloyd to the Chinaman's,
I with Lady Jersey, to lunch; so severally home. Thursday I
have forgotten: Saturday, I began again on Davie; on Sunday,
the Jersey party came up to call and carried me to dinner.
As I came out, to ride home, the search-lights of the CURACOA
were lightening on the horizon from many miles away, and next
morning she came in. Tuesday was huge fun: a reception at
Haggard's. All our party dined there; Lloyd and I, in the
absence of Haggard and Leigh, had to play aide-de-camp and
host for about twenty minutes, and I presented the population
of Apia at random but (luck helping) without one mistake.
Wednesday we had two middies to lunch. Thursday we had Eeles
and Hoskyn (lieutenant and doctor - very, very nice fellows -
simple, good and not the least dull) to dinner. Saturday,
Graham and I lunched on board; Graham, Belle, Lloyd dined at
the G.'s; and Austin and the WHOLE of our servants went with
them to an evening entertainment; the more bold returning by
lantern-light. Yesterday, Sunday, Belle and I were off by
about half past eight, left our horses at a public house, and
went on board the CURACOA in the wardroom skiff; were
entertained in the wardroom; thence on deck to the service,
which was a great treat; three fiddles and a harmonium and
excellent choir, and the great ship's company joining: on
shore in Haggard's big boat to lunch with the party. Thence
all together to Vailima, where we read aloud a Ouida Romance
we have been secretly writing; in which Haggard was the hero,
and each one of the authors had to draw a portrait of him or
herself in a Ouida light. Leigh, Lady J., Fanny, R.L.S.,
Belle and Graham were the authors.
In the midst of this gay life, I have finally recopied two
chapters, and drafted for the first time three of Davie
Balfour. But it is not a life that would continue to suit
me, and if I have not continued to write to you, you will
scarce wonder. And to-day we all go down again to dinner,
and to-morrow they all come up to lunch! The world is too
much with us. But it now nears an end, to-day already the
CURACOA has sailed; and on Saturday or Sunday Lady Jersey
will follow them in the mail steamer. I am sending you a
wire by her hands as far as Sydney, that is to say either you
or Cassell, about FALESA: I will not allow it to be called
UMA in book form, that is not the logical name of the story.
Nor can I have the marriage contract omitted; and the thing
is full of misprints abominable. In the picture, Uma is rot;
so is the old man and the negro; but Wiltshire is splendid,
and Case will do. It seems badly illuminated, but this may
be printing. How have I seen this first number? Not through
your attention, guilty one! Lady Jersey had it, and only
mentioned it yesterday.
I ought to say how much we all like the Jersey party. My boy
Henry was enraptured with the manners of the TAWAITAI SILI
(chief lady). Among our other occupations, I did a bit of a
supposed epic describing our tryst at the ford of the
Gasegase; and Belle and I made a little book of caricatures
and verses about incidents on the visit.
The wild round of gaiety continues. After I had written to
you yesterday, the brain being wholly extinct, I played
piquet all morning with Graham. After lunch down to call on
the U.S. Consul, hurt in a steeple-chase; thence back to the
new girls' school which Lady J. was to open, and where my
ladies met me. Lady J. is really an orator, with a voice of
gold; the rest of us played our unremarked parts;
missionaries, Haggard, myself, a Samoan chief, holding forth
in turn; myself with (at least) a golden brevity. Thence,
Fanny, Belle, and I to town, to our billiard room in
Haggard's back garden, where we found Lloyd and where Graham
joined us. The three men first dressed, with the ladies in a
corner; and then, to leave them a free field, we went off to
Haggard and Leigh's quarters, where - after all to dinner,
where our two parties, a brother of Colonel Kitchener's, a
passing globe-trotter, and Clarke the missionary. A very gay
evening, with all sorts of chaff and mirth, and a moonlit
ride home, and to bed before 12.30. And now to-day, we have
the Jersey-Haggard troupe to lunch, and I must pass the
morning dressing ship.
I sit to write to you now, 7.15, all the world in bed except
myself, accounted for, and Belle and Graham, down at
Haggard's at dinner. Not a leaf is stirring here; but the
moon overhead (now of a good bigness) is obscured and partly
revealed in a whirling covey of thin storm-clouds. By Jove,
it blows above.
From 8 till 11.15 on Tuesday, I dressed ship, and in
particular cleaned crystal, my specially. About 11.30 the
guests began to arrive before I was dressed, and between
while I had written a parody for Lloyd to sing. Yesterday,
Wednesday, I had to start out about 3 for town, had a long
interview with the head of the German Firm about some work in
my new house, got over to Lloyd's billiard-room about six, on
the way whither I met Fanny and Belle coming down with one
Kitchener, a brother of the Colonel's. Dined in the
billiard-room, discovered we had forgot to order oatmeal;
whereupon, in the moonlit evening, I set forth in my tropical
array, mess jacket and such, to get the oatmeal, and meet a
young fellow C. - and not a bad young fellow either, only an
idiot - as drunk as Croesus. He wept with me, he wept for
me; he talked like a bad character in an impudently bad
farce; I could have laughed aloud to hear, and could make you
laugh by repeating, but laughter was not uppermost.
This morning at about seven, I set off after the lost sheep.
I could have no horse; all that could be mounted - we have
one girth-sore and one dead-lame in the establishment - were
due at a picnic about 10.30. The morning was very wet, and I
set off barefoot, with my trousers over my knees, and a
macintosh. Presently I had to take a side path in the bush;
missed it; came forth in a great oblong patch of taro
solemnly surrounded by forest - no soul, no sign, no sound -
and as I stood there at a loss, suddenly between the showers
out broke the note of a harmonium and a woman's voice singing
an air that I know very well, but have (as usual) forgot the
name of. 'Twas from a great way off, but seemed to fill the
world. It was strongly romantic, and gave me a point which
brought me, by all sorts of forest wading, to an open space
of palms. These were of all ages, but mostly at that age
when the branches arch from the ground level, range
themselves, with leaves exquisitely green. The whole
interspace was overgrown with convolvulus, purple, yellow and
white, often as deep as to my waist, in which I floundered
aimlessly. The very mountain was invisible from here. The
rain came and went; now in sunlit April showers, now with the
proper tramp and rattle of the tropics. All this while I met
no sight or sound of man, except the voice which was now
silent, and a damned pig-fence that headed me off at every
corner. Do you know barbed wire? Think of a fence of it on
rotten posts, and you barefoot. But I crossed it at last
with my heart in my mouth and no harm done. Thence at last
to C's.: no C. Next place I came to was in the zone of
woods. They offered me a buggy and set a black boy to wash
my legs and feet. 'Washum legs belong that fellow white-man'
was the command. So at last I ran down my son of a gun in
the hotel, sober, and with no story to tell; penitent, I
think. Home, by buggy and my poor feet, up three miles of
root, boulder, gravel and liquid mud, slipping back at every
Hope you will be able to read a word of the last, no joke
writing by a bad lantern with a groggy hand and your glasses
mislaid. Not that the hand is not better, as you see by the
absence of the amanuensis hitherto. Mail came Friday, and a
communication from yourself much more decent than usual, for
which I thank you. Glad the WRECKER should so hum; but Lord,
what fools these mortals be!
So far yesterday, the citation being wrung from me by
remembrance of many reviews. I have now received all FALESA,
and my admiration for that tale rises; I believe it is in
some ways my best work; I am pretty sure, at least, I have
never done anything better than Wiltshire.
On Wednesday the Spinsters of Apia gave a ball to a select
crowd. Fanny, Belle, Lloyd and I rode down, met Haggard by
the way and joined company with him. Dinner with Haggard,
and thence to the ball. The Chief Justice appeared; it was
immediately remarked, and whispered from one to another, that
he and I had the only red sashes in the room, - and they were
both of the hue of blood, sir, blood. He shook hands with
myself and all the members of my family. Then the cream
came, and I found myself in the same set of a quadrille with
his honour. We dance here in Apia a most fearful and
wonderful quadrille, I don't know where the devil they fished
it from; but it is rackety and prancing and embraceatory
beyond words; perhaps it is best defined in Haggard's
expression of a gambado. When I and my great enemy found
ourselves involved in this gambol, and crossing hands, and
kicking up, and being embraced almost in common by large and
quite respectable females, we - or I - tried to preserve some
rags of dignity, but not for long. The deuce of it is that,
personally, I love this man; his eye speaks to me, I am
pleased in his society. We exchanged a glance, and then a
grin; the man took me in his confidence; and through the
remainder of that prance we pranced for each other. Hard to
imagine any position more ridiculous; a week before he had
been trying to rake up evidence against me by brow-beating
and threatening a half-white interpreter; that very morning I
had been writing most villainous attacks upon him for the
TIMES; and we meet and smile, and - damn it! - like each
other. I do my best to damn the man and drive him from these
islands; but the weakness endures - I love him. This is a
thing I would despise in anybody else; but he is so jolly
insidious and ingratiating! No, sir, I can't dislike him;
but if I don't make hay of him, it shall not be for want of
Yesterday, we had two Germans and a young American boy to
lunch; and in the afternoon, Vailima was in a state of siege;
ten white people on the front verandah, at least as many
brown in the cook house, and countless blacks to see the
black boy Arrick.
Which reminds me, Arrick was sent Friday was a week to the
German Firm with a note, and was not home on time. Lloyd and
I were going bedward, it was late with a bright moon - ah,
poor dog, you know no such moons as these! - when home came
Arrick with his head in a white bandage and his eyes shining.
He had had a fight with other blacks, Malaita boys; many
against one, and one with a knife: 'I KNICKED 'EM DOWN, three
four!' he cried; and had himself to be taken to the doctor's
and bandaged. Next day, he could not work, glory of battle
swelled too high in his threadpaper breast; he had made a
one-stringed harp for Austin, borrowed it, came to Fanny's
room, and sang war-songs and danced a war dance in honour of
his victory. And it appears, by subsequent advices, that it
was a serious victory enough; four of his assailants went to
hospital, and one is thought in danger. All Vailima rejoiced
at this news.
Five more chapters of David, 22 to 27, go to Baxter. All
love affair; seems pretty good to me. Will it do for the
young person? I don't know: since the Beach, I know nothing,
except that men are fools and hypocrites, and I know less of
them than I was fond enough to fancy.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - On Tuesday, we had our young adventurer
ready, and Fanny, Belle, he and I set out about three of a
dark, deadly hot, and deeply unwholesome afternoon. Belle
had the lad behind her; I had a pint of champagne in either
pocket, a parcel in my hands, and as Jack had a girth sore
and I rode without a girth, I might be said to occupy a very
unstrategic position. On the way down, a little dreary,
beastly drizzle beginning to come out of the darkness, Fanny
put up an umbrella, her horse bounded, reared, cannoned into
me, cannoned into Belle and the lad, and bolted for home. It
really might and ought to have been an A1 catastrophe; but
nothing happened beyond Fanny's nerves being a good deal
shattered; of course, she could not tell what had happened to
us until she got her horse mastered.
Next day, Haggard went off to the Commission and left us in
charge of his house; all our people came down in wreaths of
flowers; we had a boat for them; Haggard had a flag in the
Commission boat for us; and when at last the steamer turned
up, the young adventurer was carried on board in great style,
with a new watch and chain, and about three pound ten of
tips, and five big baskets of fruit as free-will offerings to
the captain. Captain Morse had us all to lunch; champagne
flowed, so did compliments; and I did the affable celebrity
life-sized. It made a great send-off for the young
adventurer. As the boat drew off, he was standing at the
head of the gangway, supported by three handsome ladies - one
of them a real full-blown beauty, Madame Green, the singer -
and looking very engaging himself, between smiles and tears.
Not that he cried in public.
My, but we were a tired crowd! However, it is always a
blessing to get home, and this time it was a sort of wonder
to ourselves that we got back alive. Casualties: Fanny's
back jarred, horse incident; Belle, bad headache, tears and
champagne; self, idiocy, champagne, fatigue; Lloyd, ditto,
ditto. As for the adventurer, I believe he will have a
delightful voyage for his little start in life. But there is
always something touching in a mite's first launch.
I am now well on with the third part of the DEBACLE. The two
first I liked much; the second completely knocking me; so far
as it has gone, this third part appears the ramblings of a
dull man who has forgotten what he has to say - he reminds me
of an M.P. But Sedan was really great, and I will pick no
holes. The batteries under fire, the red-cross folk, the
county charge - perhaps, above all, Major Bouroche and the
operations, all beyond discussion; and every word about the
Emperor splendid.
David Balfour done, and its author along with it, or nearly
so. Strange to think of even our doctor here repeating his
nonsense about debilitating climate. Why, the work I have
been doing the last twelve months, in one continuous spate,
mostly with annoying interruptions and without any collapse
to mention, would be incredible in Norway. But I HAVE broken
down now, and will do nothing as long as I possibly can.
With David Balfour I am very well pleased; in fact these
labours of the last year - I mean FALESA AND D. B., not
Samoa, of course - seem to me to be nearer what I mean than
anything I have ever done; nearer what I mean by fiction; the
nearest thing before was KIDNAPPED. I am not forgetting the
MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, but that lacked all pleasurableness,
and hence was imperfect in essence. So you see, if I am a
little tired, I do not repent.
The third part of the DEBACLE may be all very fine; but I
cannot read it. It suffers from IMPAIRED VITALITY, and
UNCERTAIN AIM; two deadly sicknesses. Vital - that's what I
am at, first: wholly vital, with a buoyancy of life. Then
lyrical, if it may be, and picturesque, always with an epic
value of scenes, so that the figures remain in the mind's eye
for ever.
Suppose you sent us some of the catalogues of the parties
what vends statutes? I don't want colossal Herculeses, but
about quarter size and less. If the catalogues were
illustrated it would probably be found a help to weak
memories. These may be found to alleviate spare moments,
when we sometimes amuse ourselves by thinking how fine we
shall make the palace if we do not go pop. Perhaps in the
same way it might amuse you to send us any pattern of wall
paper that might strike you as cheap, pretty and suitable for
a room in a hot and extremely bright climate. It should be
borne in mind that our climate can be extremely dark too.
Our sitting-room is to be in varnished wood. The room I have
particularly in mind is a sort of bed and sitting-room,
pretty large, lit on three sides, and the colour in favour of
its proprietor at present is a topazy yellow. But then with
what colour to relieve it? For a little work-room of my own
at the back. I should rather like to see some patterns of
unglossy - well, I'll be hanged if I can describe this red -
it's not Turkish and it's not Roman and it's not Indian, but
it seems to partake of the two last, and yet it can't be
either of them, because it ought to be able to go with
vermilion. Ah, what a tangled web we weave - anyway, with
what brains you have left choose me and send me some - many -
patterns of this exact shade.
A few days ago it was Haggard's birthday and we had him and
his cousin to dinner - bless me if I ever told you of his
cousin! - he is here anyway, and a fine, pleasing specimen,
so that we have concluded (after our own happy experience)
that the climate of Samoa must be favourable to cousins.
Then we went out on the verandah in a lovely moonlight,
drinking port, hearing the cousin play and sing, till
presently we were informed that our boys had got up a siva in
Lafaele's house to which we were invited. It was entirely
their own idea. The house, you must understand, is one-half
floored, and one-half bare earth, and the dais stands a
little over knee high above the level of the soil. The dais
was the stage, with three footlights. We audience sat on
mats on the floor, and the cook and three of our work-boys,
sometimes assisted by our two ladies, took their places
behind the footlights and began a topical Vailima song. The
burden was of course that of a Samoan popular song about a
white man who objects to all that he sees in Samoa. And
there was of course a special verse for each one of the party
- Lloyd was called the dancing man (practically the Chief's
handsome son) of Vailima; he was also, in his character I
suppose of overseer, compared to a policeman - Belle had that
day been the almoner in a semi-comic distribution of wedding
rings and thimbles (bought cheap at an auction) to the whole
plantation company, fitting a ring on every man's finger, and
a ring and a thimble on both the women's. This was very much
in character with her native name TEUILA, the adorner of the
ugly - so of course this was the point of her verse and at a
given moment all the performers displayed the rings upon
their fingers. Pelema (the cousin - OUR cousin) was
described as watching from the house and whenever he saw any
boy not doing anything, running and doing it himself.
Fanny's verse was less intelligible, but it was accompanied
in the dance with a pantomime of terror well-fitted to call
up her haunting, indefatigable and diminutive presence in a
blue gown.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is very late to begin the monthly
budget, but I have a good excuse this time, for I have had a
very annoying fever with symptoms of sore arm, and in the
midst of it a very annoying piece of business which suffered
no delay or idleness. . . . The consequence of all this was
that my fever got very much worse and your letter has not
been hitherto written. But, my dear fellow, do compare these
little larky fevers with the fine, healthy, prostrating colds
of the dear old dead days at home. Here was I, in the middle
of a pretty bad one, and I was able to put it in my pocket,
and go down day after day, and attend to and put my strength
into this beastly business. Do you see me doing that with a
catarrh? And if I had done so, what would have been the
Last night, about four o'clock, Belle and I set off to Apia,
whither my mother had preceded us. She was at the Mission;
we went to Haggard's. There we had to wait the most
unconscionable time for dinner. I do not wish to speak
lightly of the Amanuensis, who is unavoidably present, but I
may at least say for myself that I was as cross as two
sticks. Dinner came at last, we had the tinned soup which is
usually the PIECE DE RESISTANCE in the halls of Haggard, and
we pitched into it. Followed an excellent salad of tomatoes
and cray-fish, a good Indian curry, a tender joint of beef, a
dish of pigeons, a pudding, cheese and coffee. I was so
over-eaten after this 'hunger and burst' that I could
scarcely move; and it was my sad fate that night in the
character of the local author to eloquute before the public -
'Mr. Stevenson will read a selection from his own works' - a
degrading picture. I had determined to read them the account
of the hurricane; I do not know if I told you that my book
has never turned up here, or rather only one copy has, and
that in the unfriendly hands of -. It has therefore only
been seen by enemies; and this combination of mystery and
evil report has been greatly envenomed by some ill-judged
newspaper articles from the States. Altogether this specimen
was listened to with a good deal of uncomfortable expectation
on the part of the Germans, and when it was over was
applauded with unmistakable relief. The public hall where
these revels came off seems to be unlucky for me; I never go
there but to some stone-breaking job. Last time it was the
public meeting of which I must have written you; this time it
was this uneasy but not on the whole unsuccessful experiment.
Belle, my mother, and I rode home about midnight in a fine
display of lightning and witch-fires. My mother is absent,
so that I may dare to say that she struck me as voluble. The
Amanuensis did not strike me the same way; she was probably
thinking, but it was really rather a weird business, and I
saw what I have never seen before, the witch-fires gathered
into little bright blue points almost as bright as a nightlight.
This is the day that should bring your letter; it is gray and
cloudy and windless; thunder rolls in the mountain; it is a
quarter past six, and I am alone, sir, alone in this
workman's house, Belle and Lloyd having been down all
yesterday to meet the steamer; they were scarce gone with
most of the horses and all the saddles, than there began a
perfect picnic of the sick and maim; Iopu with a bad foot,
Faauma with a bad shoulder, Fanny with yellow spots. It was
at first proposed to carry all these to the doctor,
particularly Faauma, whose shoulder bore an appearance of
erysipelas, that sent the amateur below. No horses, no
saddle. Now I had my horse and I could borrow Lafaele's
saddle; and if I went alone I could do a job that had long
been waiting; and that was to interview the doctor on another
matter. Off I set in a hazy moonlight night; windless, like
to-day; the thunder rolling in the mountain, as to-day; in
the still groves, these little mushroom lamps glowing blue
and steady, singly or in pairs. Well, I had my interview,
said everything as I had meant, and with just the result I
hoped for. The doctor and I drank beer together and
discussed German literature until nine, and we parted the
best of friends. I got home to a silent house of sleepers,
only Fanny awaiting me; we talked awhile, in whispers, on the
interview; then, I got a lantern and went across to the
workman's house, now empty and silent, myself sole occupant.
So to bed, prodigious tired but mighty content with my
night's work, and to-day, with a headache and a chill, have
written you this page, while my new novel waits. Of this I
will tell you nothing, except the various names under
consideration. First, it ought to be called - but of course
that is impossible -
Then it IS to be called either
Adam Weir, Lord-Justice Clerk, called Lord Hermiston.
Archie, his son.
Aunt Kirstie Elliott, his housekeeper at Hermiston.
Elliott of the Cauldstaneslap, her brother.
Kirstie Elliott, his daughter.
Jim, }
Gib, }
Hob } his sons.
& }
Dandie, }
Patrick Innes, a young advocate.
The Lord-Justice General.
Scene, about Hermiston in the Lammermuirs and in Edinburgh.
Temp. 1812. So you see you are to have another holiday from
copra! The rain begins softly on the iron roof, and I will
do the reverse and - dry up.
Yours with the diplomatic private opinion received. It is
just what I should have supposed. CA M'EST BIEN EGAL. - The
name is to be
None others are genuine. Unless it be
On Saturday we expected Captain Morse of the Alameda to come
up to lunch, and on Friday with genuine South Sea hospitality
had a pig killed. On the Saturday morning no pig. Some of
the boys seemed to give a doubtful account of themselves; our
next neighbour below in the wood is a bad fellow and very
intimate with some of our boys, for whom his confounded house
is like a fly-paper for flies. To add to all this, there was
on the Saturday a great public presentation of food to the
King and Parliament men, an occasion on which it is almost
dignified for a Samoan to steal anything, and entirely
dignified for him to steal a pig.
(The Amanuensis went to the TALOLO, as it is called, and saw
something so very pleasing she begs to interrupt the letter
to tell it. The different villagers came in in bands - led
by the maid of the village, followed by the young warriors.
It was a very fine sight, for some three thousand people are
said to have assembled. The men wore nothing but magnificent
head-dresses and a bunch of leaves, and were oiled and
glistening in the sunlight. One band had no maid but was led
by a tiny child of about five - a serious little creature
clad in a ribbon of grass and a fine head-dress, who skipped
with elaborate leaps in front of the warriors, like a little
kid leading a band of lions. A.M.)
The A.M. being done, I go on again. All this made it very
possible that even if none of our boys had stolen the pig,
some of them might know the thief. Besides, the theft, as it
was a theft of meat prepared for a guest, had something of
the nature of an insult, and 'my face,' in native phrase,
'was ashamed.' Accordingly, we determined to hold a bed of
justice. It was done last night after dinner. I sat at the
head of the table, Graham on my right hand, Henry Simele at
my left, Lloyd behind him. The house company sat on the
floor around the walls - twelve all told. I am described as
looking as like Braxfield as I could manage with my
appearance; Graham, who is of a severe countenance, looked
like Rhadamanthus; Lloyd was hideous to the view; and Simele
had all the fine solemnity of a Samoan chief. The
proceedings opened by my delivering a Samoan prayer, which
may be translated thus - 'Our God, look down upon us and
shine into our hearts. Help us to be far from falsehood so
that each one of us may stand before Thy Face in his
integrity.' - Then, beginning with Simele, every one came up
to the table, laid his hand on the Bible, and repeated clause
by clause after me the following oath - I fear it may sound
even comic in English, but it is a very pretty piece of
Samoan, and struck direct at the most lively superstitions of
the race. 'This is the Holy Bible here that I am touching.
Behold me, O God! If I know who it was that took away the
pig, or the place to which it was taken, or have heard
anything relating to it, and shall not declare the same - be
made an end of by God this life of mine!' They all took it
with so much seriousness and firmness that (as Graham said)
if they were not innocent they would make invaluable
witnesses. I was so far impressed by their bearing that I
went no further, and the funny and yet strangely solemn scene
came to an end.
SUNDAY, NO. 6th.
Here is a long story to go back upon, and I wonder if I have
either time or patience for the task?
Wednesday I had a great idea of match-making, and proposed to
Henry that Faale would make a good wife for him. I wish I
had put this down when it was fresher in my mind, it was so
interesting an interview. My gentleman would not tell if I
were on or not. 'I do not know yet; I will tell you next
week. May I tell the sister of my father? No, better not,
tell her when it is done.' - 'But will not your family be
angry if you marry without asking them?' - 'My village? What
does my village want? Mats!' I said I thought the girl
would grow up to have a great deal of sense, and my gentleman
flew out upon me; she had sense now, he said.
Thursday, we were startled by the note of guns, and presently
after heard it was an English war ship. Graham and I set off
at once, and as soon as we met any townsfolk they began
crying to me that I was to be arrested. It was the VOSSISCHE
ZEITUNG article which had been quoted in a paper. Went on
board and saw Captain Bourke; he did not even know - not even
guess - why he was here; having been sent off by cablegram
from Auckland. It is hoped the same ship that takes this off
Europewards may bring his orders and our news. But which is
it to be? Heads or tails? If it is to be German, I hope
they will deport me; I should prefer it so; I do not think
that I could bear a German officialdom, and should probably
have to leave SPONTE MEA, which is only less picturesque and
more expensive.
Mail day. All well, not yet put in prison, whatever may be
in store for me. No time even to sign this lame letter.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Another grimy little odd and end of paper,
for which you shall be this month repaid in kind, and serve
you jolly well right. . . The new house is roofed; it will
be a braw house, and what is better, I have my yearly bill
in, and I find I can pay for it. For all which mercies, etc.
I must have made close on 4,000 pounds this year all told;
but, what is not so pleasant, I seem to have come near to
spending them. I have been in great alarm, with this new
house on the cards, all summer, and came very near to taking
in sail, but I live here so entirely on credit, that I
determined to hang on.
I was saying yesterday that my life was strange and did not
think how well I spoke. Yesterday evening I was briefed to
defend a political prisoner before the Deputy Commissioner.
What do you think of that for a vicissitude?
Now for a confession. When I heard you and Cassells had
decided to print THE BOTTLE IMP along with FALESA, I was too
much disappointed to answer. THE BOTTLE IMP was the PIECE DE
However, that volume might have never got done; and I send
you two others in case they should be in time.
First have the BEACH OF FALESA.
Then a fresh false title: ISLAND NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS; and
THE BOTTLE IMP: a cue from an old melodrama.
THE WAIF WOMAN; a cue from a SAGA.
Of course these two others are not up to the mark of THE
BOTTLE IMP; but they each have a certain merit, and they fit
in style. By saying 'a cue from an old melodrama' after the
B. I., you can get rid of my note. If this is in time, it
will be splendid, and will make quite a volume.
Should you and Cassells prefer, you can call the whole volume
I. N. E. - though the BEACH OF FALESA is the child of a quite
different inspiration. They all have a queer realism, even
the most extravagant, even the ISLE OF VOICES; the manners
are exact.
Should they come too late, have them type-written, and return
to me here the type-written copies.
3rd start, - But now more humbly and with the aid of an
Amanuensis. First one word about page 2. My wife protests
against the Waif-woman and I am instructed to report the same
to you. . . .
A horrid alarm rises that our October mail was burned
crossing the Plains. If so, you lost a beautiful long letter
- I am sure it was beautiful though I remember nothing about
it - and I must say I think it serves you properly well.
That I should continue writing to you at such length is
simply a vicious habit for which I blush. At the same time,
please communicate at once with Charles Baxter whether you
have or have not received a letter posted here Oct 12th, as
he is going to cable me the fate of my mail.
Now to conclude my news. The German Firm have taken my book
like angels, and the result is that Lloyd and I were down
there at dinner on Saturday, where we partook of fifteen
several dishes and eight distinct forms of intoxicating
drink. To the credit of Germany, I must say there was not a
shadow of a headache the next morning. I seem to have done
as well as my neighbours, for I hear one of the clerks
expressed the next morning a gratified surprise that Mr.
Stevenson stood his drink so well. It is a strange thing
that any race can still find joy in such athletic exercises.
I may remark in passing that the mail is due and you have had
far more than you deserve.
R. L. S.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - You are properly paid at last, and it is
like you will have but a shadow of a letter. I have been
pretty thoroughly out of kilter; first a fever that would
neither come on nor go off, then acute dyspepsia, in the
weakening grasp of which I get wandering between the waking
state and one of nightmare. Why the devil does no one send
me ATALANTA? And why are there no proofs of D. Balfour?
Sure I should have had the whole, at least the half, of them
by now; and it would be all for the advantage of the
Atalantans. I have written to Cassell & Co. (matter of
FALESA) 'you will please arrange with him' (meaning you).
'What he may decide I shall abide.' So consider your hand
free, and act for me without fear or favour. I am greatly
pleased with the illustrations. It is very strange to a
South-Seayer to see Hawaiian women dressed like Samoans, but
I guess that's all one to you in Middlesex. It's about the
same as if London city men were shown going to the Stock
Exchange as PIFFERARI; but no matter, none will sleep worse
for it. I have accepted Cassell's proposal as an amendment
to one of mine; that D. B. is to be brought out first under
the title CATRIONA without pictures; and, when the hour
strikes, KIDNAPPED and CATRIONA are to form vols. I. and II.
of the heavily illustrated 'Adventures of David Balfour' at
7s. 6d. each, sold separately.
-'s letter was vastly sly and dry and shy. I am not afraid
now. Two attempts have been made, both have failed, and I
imagine these failures strengthen me. Above all this is true
of the last, where my weak point was attempted. On every
other, I am strong. Only force can dislodge me, for public
opinion is wholly on my side. All races and degrees are
united in heartfelt opposition to the Men of Mulinuu. The
news of the fighting was of no concern to mortal man; it was
made much of because men love talk of battles, and because
the Government pray God daily for some scandal not their own;
but it was only a brisk episode in a clan fight which has
grown apparently endemic in the west of Tutuila. At the best
it was a twopenny affair, and never occupied my mind five
I am so weary of reports that are without foundation and
threats that go without fulfilment, and so much occupied
besides by the raging troubles of my own wame, that I have
been very slack on politics, as I have been in literature.
With incredible labour, I have rewritten the First Chapter of
the Justice Clerk; it took me about ten days, and requires
another athletic dressing after all. And that is my story
for the month. The rest is grunting and grutching.
Consideranda for THE BEACH:-
I. Whether to add one or both the tales I sent you?
II. Whether to call the whole volume 'Island Nights
III Whether, having waited so long, it would not be better to
give me another mail, in case I could add another member to
the volume and a little better justify the name?
If I possibly can draw up another story, I will. What
annoyed me about the use of THE BOTTLE IMP was that I had
always meant it for the centre-piece of a volume of MARCHEN
which I was slowly to elaborate. You always had an idea that
I depreciated the B. I; I can't think wherefore; I always
particularly liked it - one of my best works, and ill to
equal; and that was why I loved to keep it in portfolio till
I had time to grow up to some other fruit of the same VENUE.
However, that is disposed of now, and we must just do the
best we can.
I am not aware that there is anything to add; the weather is
hellish, waterspouts, mists, chills, the foul fiend's own
weather, following on a week of expurgated heaven; so it goes
at this bewildering season. I write in the upper floor of my
new house, of which I will send you some day a plan to
measure. 'Tis an elegant structure, surely, and the proid of
me oi. Was asked to pay for it just now, and genteelly
refused, and then agreed, in view of general good-will, to
pay a half of what is still due.
24TH JANUARY 1893.
This ought to have gone last mail and was forgotten. My best
excuse is that I was engaged in starting an influenza, to
which class of exploit our household has been since then
entirely dedicated. We had eight cases, one of them very
bad, and one - mine - complicated with my old friend Bluidy
Jack. Luckily neither Fanny, Lloyd or Belle took the
confounded thing, and they were able to run the household and
nurse the sick to admiration.
Some of our boys behaved like real trumps. Perhaps the
prettiest performance was that of our excellent Henry Simele,
or, as we sometimes call him, Davy Balfour. Henry, I maun
premeese, is a chief; the humblest Samoan recoils from
emptying slops as you would from cheating at cards; now the
last nights of our bad time when we had seven down together,
it was enough to have made anybody laugh or cry to see Henry
going the rounds with a slop-bucket and going inside the
mosquito net of each of the sick, Protestant and Catholic
alike, to pray with them.
I must tell you that in my sickness I had a huge alleviation
and began a new story. This I am writing by dictation, and
really think it is an art I can manage to acquire. The
relief is beyond description; it is just like a school-treat
to me and the amanuensis bears up extraordinar'. The story
is to be called ST. IVES; I give you your choice whether or
not it should bear the subtitle, 'Experiences of a French
prisoner in England.' We were just getting on splendidly
with it, when this cursed mail arrived and requires to be
attended to. It looks to me very like as if St. Ives would
be ready before any of the others, but you know me and how
impossible it is I should predict. The Amanuensis has her
head quite turned and believes herself to be the author of
this novel (and IS to some extent) - and as the creature (!)
has not been wholly useless in the matter (I told you so!
A.M.) I propose to foster her vanity by a little
commemoration gift! The name of the hero is Anne de St. Yves
- he Englishes his name to St. Ives during his escape. It is
my idea to get a ring made which shall either represent ANNE
or A. S. Y. A., of course, would be Amethyst and S. Sapphire,
which is my favourite stone anyway and was my father's before
me. But what would the ex-Slade professor do about the
letter Y? Or suppose he took the other version, how would he
meet the case, the two N.'s? These things are beyond my
knowledge, which it would perhaps be more descriptive to call
ignorance. But I place the matter in the meanwhile under
your consideration and beg to hear your views. I shall tell
you on some other occasion and when the A.M. is out of
hearing how VERY much I propose to invest in this
testimonial; but I may as well inform you at once that I
intend it to be cheap, sir, damned cheap! My idea of running
amanuenses is by praise, not pudding, flattery and not coins!
I shall send you when the time is ripe a ring to measure by.
To resume our sad tale. After the other seven were almost
wholly recovered Henry lay down to influenza on his own
account. He is but just better and it looks as though Fanny
were about to bring up the rear. As for me, I am all right,
though I WAS reduced to dictating ANNE in the deaf and dumb
alphabet, which I think you will admit is a COMBLE.
Politics leave me extraordinary cold. It seems that so much
of my purpose has come off, and Cedarcrantz and Pilsach are
sacked. The rest of it has all gone to water. The tripleheaded
ass at home, in his plenitude of ignorance, prefers to
collect the taxes and scatter the Mataafas by force or the
threat of force. It may succeed, and I suppose it will. It
is none the less for that expensive, harsh, unpopular and
unsettling. I am young enough to have been annoyed, and
altogether eject and renegate the whole idea of political
affairs. Success in that field appears to be the
organisation of failure enlivened with defamation of
character; and, much as I love pickles and hot water (in your
true phrase) I shall take my pickles in future from Crosse
and Blackwell and my hot water with a dose of good Glenlivat.
Do not bother at all about the wall-papers. We have had the
whole of our new house varnished, and it looks beautiful. I
wish you could see the hall; poor room, it had to begin life
as an infirmary during our recent visitation; but it is
really a handsome comely place, and when we get the
furniture, and the pictures, and what is so very much more
decorative, the picture frames, will look sublime.
JAN. 30TH.
I have written to Charles asking for Rowlandson's Syntax and
Dance of Death out of our house, and begging for anything
about fashions and manners (fashions particularly) for 1814.
Can you help? Both the Justice Clerk and St. Ives fall in
that fated year. Indeed I got into St. Ives while going over
the Annual Register for the other. There is a kind of fancy
list of Chaps. of St. Ives. (It begins in Edinburgh Castle.)
I. Story of a lion rampant (that was a toy he had made, and
given to a girl visitor). II. Story of a pair of scissors.
III. St. Ives receives a bundle of money. IV. St. Ives is
shown a house. V. The Escape. VI. The Cottage (Swanston
College). VII. The Hen-house. VIII. Three is company and
four none. IX. The Drovers. X. The Great North Road. XI.
Burchell Fenn. XII. The covered cart. XIII. The doctor.
XIV. The Luddites. V. Set a thief to catch a thief. XXVI.
M. le Comte de Keroualle (his uncle, the rich EMIGRE, whom he
finds murdered). XVII. The cousins. XVIII. Mr. Sergeant
Garrow. XIX. A meeting at the Ship, Dover. XX. Diane. XXI.
The Duke's Prejudices. XXII. The False Messenger. XXIII.
The gardener's ladder. XXIV. The officers. XXV. Trouble
with the Duke. XXVI. Fouquet again. XXVII. The Aeronaut.
XXVIII. The True-Blooded Yankee. XXIX. In France. I don't
know where to stop. Apropos, I want a book about Paris, and
the FIRST RETURN of the EMIGRES and all up to the CENT JOURS:
d'ye ken anything in my way? I want in particular to know
about them and the Napoleonic functionaries and officers, and
to get the colour and some vital details of the business of
exchange of departments from one side to the other. Ten
chapters are drafted, and VIII. re-copied by me, but will
want another dressing for luck. It is merely a story of
adventure, rambling along; but that is perhaps the guard that
'sets my genius best,' as Alan might have said. I wish I
could feel as easy about the other! But there, all novels
are a heavy burthen while they are doing, and a sensible
disappointment when they are done.
For God's sake, let me have a copy of the new German Samoa
White book. R. L. S.
FEB. 19th, '93.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - You will see from this heading that I am
not dead yet nor likely to be. I was pretty considerably out
of sorts, and that is indeed one reason why Fanny, Belle, and
I have started out for a month's lark. To be quite exact, I
think it will be about five weeks before we get home. We
shall stay between two and three in Sydney. Already, though
we only sailed yesterday, I am feeling as fit as a fiddle.
Fanny ate a whole fowl for breakfast, to say nothing of a
tower of hot cakes. Belle and I floored another hen betwixt
the pair of us, and I shall be no sooner done with the
present amanuensing racket than I shall put myself outside a
pint of Guinness. If you think this looks like dying of
consumption in Apia I can only say I differ from you. In the
matter of David, I have never yet received my proofs at all,
but shall certainly wait for your suggestions. Certainly,
Chaps. 17 to 20 are the hitch, and I confess I hurried over
them with both wings spread. This is doubtless what you
complain of. Indeed, I placed my single reliance on Miss
Grant. If she couldn't ferry me over, I felt I had to stay
About ISLAND NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS all you say is highly
satisfactory. Go in and win.
The extracts from the TIMES I really cannot trust myself to
comment upon. They were infernally satisfactory; so, and
perhaps still more so, was a letter I had at the same time
from Lord Pembroke. If I have time as I go through Auckland,
I am going to see Sir George Grey.
Now I really think that's all the business. I have been
rather sick and have had two small hemorrhages, but the
second I believe to have been accidental. No good denying
that this annoys, because it do. However, you must expect
influenza to leave some harm, and my spirits, appetite, peace
on earth and goodwill to men are all on a rising market.
During the last week the amanuensis was otherwise engaged,
whereupon I took up, pitched into, and about one half
demolished another tale, once intended to be called THE PEARL
FISHER, but now razeed and called THE SCHOONER FARRALONE. We
had a capital start, the steamer coming in at sunrise, and
just giving us time to get our letters ere she sailed again.
The manager of the German firm (O strange, changed days!)
danced attendance upon us all morning; his boat conveyed us
to and from the steamer.
FEB. 21ST.
All continues well. Amanuensis bowled over for a day, but
afoot again and jolly; Fanny enormously bettered by the
voyage; I have been as jolly as a sand-boy as usual at sea.
The Amanuensis sits opposite to me writing to her offspring.
Fanny is on deck. I have just supplied her with the Canadian
Pacific Agent, and so left her in good hands. You should
hear me at table with the Ulster purser and a little punning
microscopist called Davis. Belle does some kind of abstruse
Boswellising; after the first meal, having gauged the kind of
jests that would pay here, I observed, 'Boswell is Barred
during this cruise.'
We approach Auckland and I must close my mail. All goes well
with the trio. Both the ladies are hanging round a beau -
the same - that I unearthed for them: I am general provider,
and especially great in the beaux business. I corrected some
proofs for Fanny yesterday afternoon, fell asleep over them
in the saloon - and the whole ship seems to have been down
beholding me. After I woke up, had a hot bath, a whiskey
punch and a cigarette, and went to bed, and to sleep too, at
8.30; a recrudescence of Vailima hours. Awoke to-day, and
had to go to the saloon clock for the hour - no sign of dawn
- all heaven grey rainy fog. Have just had breakfast,
written up one letter, register and close this.
Bad pen, bad ink,
bad light, bad
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Have had an amusing but tragic holiday,
from which we return in disarray. Fanny quite sick, but I
think slowly and steadily mending; Belle in a terrific state
of dentistry troubles which now seem calmed; and myself with
a succession of gentle colds out of which I at last succeeded
in cooking up a fine pleurisy. By stopping and stewing in a
perfectly airless state-room I seem to have got rid of the
pleurisy. Poor Fanny had very little fun of her visit,
having been most of the time on a diet of maltine and slops -
and this while the rest of us were rioting on oysters and
mushrooms. Belle's only devil in the hedge was the dentist.
As for me, I was entertained at the General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church, likewise at a sort of artistic club;
made speeches at both, and may therefore be said to have
been, like Saint Paul, all things to all men. I have an
account of the latter racket which I meant to have enclosed
in this. . . . Had some splendid photos taken, likewise a
medallion by a French sculptor; met Graham, who returned with
us as far as Auckland. Have seen a good deal too of Sir
George Grey; what a wonderful old historic figure to be
walking on your arm and recalling ancient events and
instances! It makes a man small, and yet the extent to which
he approved what I had done - or rather have tried to do -
encouraged me. Sir George is an expert at least, he knows
these races: he is not a small employe with an ink-pot and a
Take it for all in all, it was huge fun: even Fanny had some
lively sport at the beginning; Belle and I all through. We
got Fanny a dress on the sly, gaudy black velvet and Duchesse
lace. And alas! she was only able to wear it once. But
we'll hope to see more of it at Samoa; it really is lovely.
Both dames are royally outfitted in silk stockings, etc. We
return, as from a raid, with our spoils and our wounded. I
am now very dandy: I announced two years ago that I should
change. Slovenly youth, all right - not slovenly age. So
really now I am pretty spruce; always a white shirt, white
necktie, fresh shave, silk, socks, O a great sight! - No more
R. L. S.
APRIL, 1893.
1. SLIP 3. Davie would be ATTRACTED into a similar dialect,
as he is later - e.g., with Doig, chapter XIX. This is truly
4, TO LIGHTLY; correct; 'to lightly' is a good regular Scots
15. See Allan Ramsay's works.
15, 16. Ay, and that is one of the pigments with which I am
trying to draw the character of Prestongrange. 'Tis a most
curious thing to render that kind, insignificant mask. To
make anything precise is to risk my effect. And till the day
he died, DAVIE was never sure of what P. was after. Not only
so; very often P. didn't know himself. There was an element
of mere liking for Davie; there was an element of being
determined, in case of accidents, to keep well with him. He
hoped his Barbara would bring him to her feet, besides, and
make him manageable. That was why he sent him to Hope Park
with them. But Davie cannot KNOW; I give you the inside of
Davie, and my method condemns me to give only the outside
both of Prestongrange and his policy.
- I'll give my mind to the technicalities. Yet to me they
seem a part of the story, which is historical, after all.
- I think they wanted Alan to escape. But when or where to
say so? I will try.
- 20, DEAN. I'll try and make that plainer.
CHAP. XIII., I fear it has to go without blows. If I could
get the pair - No, can't be.
- XIV. All right, will abridge.
- XV. I'd have to put a note to every word; and he who can't
read Scots can NEVER enjoy Tod Lapraik.
- XVII. Quite right. I CAN make this plainer, and will.
- XVIII. I know, but I have to hurry here; this is the
broken back of my story; some business briefly transacted, I
am leaping for Barbara's apron-strings.
SLIP 57. Quite right again; I shall make it plain.
CHAP. XX. I shall make all these points clear. About Lady
Prestongrange (not LADY Grant, only MISS Grant, my dear,
though LADY Prestongrange, quoth the dominie) I am taken with
your idea of her death, and have a good mind to substitute a
featureless aunt.
SLIP 78. I don't see how to lessen this effect. There is
really not much said of it; and I know Catriona did it. But
I'll try.
- 89. I know. This is an old puzzle of mine. You see C.'s
dialect is not wholly a bed of roses. If only I knew the
Gaelic. Well, I'll try for another expression.
THE END. I shall try to work it over. James was at Dunkirk
ordering post-horses for his own retreat. Catriona did have
her suspicions aroused by the letter, and, careless
gentleman, I told you so - or she did at least. - Yes, the
blood money, I am bothered about the portmanteau; it is the
presence of Catriona that bothers me; the rape of the
pockmantie is historic. . . .
To me, I own, it seems in the proof a very pretty piece of
workmanship. David himself I refuse to discuss; he IS. The
Lord Advocate I think a strong sketch of a very difficult
character, James More, sufficient; and the two girls very
pleasing creatures. But O dear me, I came near losing my
heart to Barbara! I am not quite so constant as David, and
even he - well, he didn't know it, anyway! TOD LAPRAIK is a
piece of living Scots: if I had never writ anything but that
and THRAWN JANET, still I'd have been a writer. The defects
of D.B. are inherent, I fear. But on the whole, I am far
indeed from being displeased with the tailie. They want more
Alan? Well, they can't get it.
I found my fame much grown on this return to civilisation.
DIGITO MONSTRARI is a new experience; people all looked at me
in the streets in Sydney; and it was very queer. Here, of
course, I am only the white chief in the Great House to the
natives; and to the whites, either an ally or a foe. It is a
much healthier state of matters. If I lived in an atmosphere
of adulation, I should end by kicking against the pricks. O
my beautiful forest, O my beautiful shining, windy house,
what a joy it was to behold them again! No chance to take
myself too seriously here.
The difficulty of the end is the mass of matter to be
attended to, and the small time left to transact it in. I
mean from Alan's danger of arrest. But I have just seen my
way out, I do believe.
I have now got as far as slip 28, and finished the chapter of
the law technicalities. Well, these seemed to me always of
the essence of the story, which is the story of a CAUSE
CELEBRE; moreover, they are the justification of my
inventions; if these men went so far (granting Davie sprung
on them) would they not have gone so much further? But of
course I knew they were a difficulty; determined to carry
them through in a conversation; approached this (it seems)
with cowardly anxiety; and filled it with gabble, sir,
gabble. I have left all my facts, but have removed 42 lines.
I should not wonder but what I'll end by re-writing it. It
is not the technicalities that shocked you, it was my bad
art. It is very strange that X. should be so good a chapter
and IX. and XI. so uncompromisingly bad. It looks as if XI.
also would have to be re-formed. If X. had not cheered me
up, I should be in doleful dumps, but X. is alive anyway, and
life is all in all.
Well, there's no disguise possible; Fanny is not well, and we
are miserably anxious. . . .
I am thankful to say the new medicine relieved her at once.
A crape has been removed from the day for all of us. To make
things better, the morning is ah! such a morning as you have
never seen; heaven upon earth for sweetness, freshness, depth
upon depth of unimaginable colour, and a huge silence broken
at this moment only by the far-away murmur of the Pacific and
the rich piping of a single bird. You can't conceive what a
relief this is; it seems a new world. She has such
extraordinary recuperative power that I do hope for the best.
I am as tired as man can be. This is a great trial to a
family, and I thank God it seems as if ours was going to bear
it well. And O! if it only lets up, it will be but a
pleasant memory. We are all seedy, bar Lloyd: Fanny, as per
above; self nearly extinct; Belle, utterly overworked and bad
toothache; Cook, down with a bad foot; Butler, prostrate with
a bad leg. Eh, what a faim'ly!
Grey heaven, raining torrents of rain; occasional thunder and
lightning. Everything to dispirit; but my invalids are
really on the mend. The rain roars like the sea; in the
sound of it there is a strange and ominous suggestion of an
approaching tramp; something nameless and measureless seems
to draw near, and strikes me cold, and yet is welcome. I lie
quiet in bed to-day, and think of the universe with a good
deal of equanimity. I have, at this moment, but the one
objection to it; the FRACAS with which it proceeds. I do not
love noise; I am like my grandfather in that; and so many
years in these still islands has ingrained the sentiment
perhaps. Here are no trains, only men pacing barefoot. No
carts or carriages; at worst the rattle of a horse's shoes
among the rocks. Beautiful silence; and so soon as this
robustious rain takes off, I am to drink of it again by
Several pages of this letter destroyed as beneath scorn; the
wailings of a crushed worm; matter in which neither you nor I
can take stock. Fanny is distinctly better, I believe all
right now; I too am mending, though I have suffered from
crushed wormery, which is not good for the body, and
damnation to the soul. I feel to-night a baseless anxiety to
see I am idiotic. I'll try the poem.
The poem did not get beyond plovers and lovers. I am still,
however, harassed by the unauthentic Muse; if I cared to
encourage her - but I have not the time, and anyway we are at
the vernal equinox. It is funny enough, but my pottering
verses are usually made (like the God-gifted organ voice's)
at the autumnal; and this seems to hold at the Antipodes.
There is here some odd secret of Nature. I cannot speak of
politics; we wait and wonder. It seems (this is partly a
guess) Ide won't take the C. J. ship, unless the islands are
disarmed; and that England hesitates and holds off. By my
own idea, strongly corroborated by Sir George, I am writing
no more letters. But I have put as many irons in against
this folly of the disarming as I could manage. It did not
reach my ears till nearly too late. What a risk to take!
What an expense to incur! And for how poor a gain! Apart
from the treachery of it. My dear fellow, politics is a vile
and a bungling business. I used to think meanly of the
plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!
A general, steady advance; Fanny really quite chipper and
jolly - self on the rapid mend, and with my eye on FORESTS
that are to fall - and my finger on the axe, which wants
Still all for the best; but I am having a heart-breaking time
over DAVID. I have nearly all corrected. But have to
the last chapter. They all seem to me off colour; and I am
not fit to better them yet. No proof has been sent of the
title, contents, or dedication.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - To-day early I sent down to Maben
(Secretary of State) an offer to bring up people from Malie,
keep them in my house, and bring them down day by day for so
long as the negotiation should last. I have a favourable
answer so far. This I would not have tried, had not old Sir
George Grey put me on my mettle; 'Never despair,' was his
word; and 'I am one of the few people who have lived long
enough to see how true that is.' Well, thereupon I plunged
in; and the thing may do me great harm, but yet I do not
think so - for I think jealousy will prevent the trial being
made. And at any rate it is another chance for this
distracted archipelago of children, sat upon by a clique of
fools. If, by the gift of God, I can do - I am allowed to
try to do - and succeed: but no, the prospect is too bright
to be entertained.
To-day we had a ride down to Tanugamanono, and then by the
new wood paths. One led us to a beautiful clearing, with
four native houses; taro, yams, and the like, excellently
planted, and old Folau - 'the Samoan Jew' - sitting and
whistling there in his new-found and well-deserved wellbeing.
It was a good sight to see a Samoan thus before the
world. Further up, on our way home, we saw the world clear,
and the wide die of the shadow lying broad; we came but a
little further, and found in the borders of the bush a
Banyan. It must have been 150 feet in height; the trunk, and
its acolytes, occupied a great space; above that, in the
peaks of the branches, quite a forest of ferns and orchids
were set; and over all again the huge spread of the boughs
rose against the bright west, and sent their shadow miles to
the eastward. I have not often seen anything more satisfying
than this vast vegetable.
A heavenly day again! the world all dead silence, save when,
from far down below us in the woods, comes up the crepitation
of the little wooden drum that beats to church. Scarce a
leaf stirs; only now and again a great, cool gush of air that
makes my papers fly, and is gone. - The King of Samoa has
refused my intercession between him and Mataafa; and I do not
deny this is a good riddance to me of a difficult business,
in which I might very well have failed. What else is to be
done for these silly folks?
And this is where I had got to, before the mail arrives with,
I must say, a real gentlemanly letter from yourself. Sir,
that is the sort of letter I want! Now, I'll make my little
proposal. I will accept CHILD'S PLAY and PAN'S PIPES. Then I
want PASTORAL, THE MANSE, THE ISLET, leaving out if you like
all the prefacial matter and beginning at I. Then the
portrait of Robert Hunter, beginning 'Whether he was
originally big or little,' and ending 'fearless and gentle.'
So much for MEM. AND PORTRAITS. BEGGARS, sections I. and
These are my selections. I don't know about PULVIS ET UMBRA
either, but must leave that to you. But just what you
About DAVIE I elaborately wrote last time, but still DAVIE is
not done; I am grinding singly at THE EBB TIDE, as we now
call the FARALLONE; the most of it will go this mail. About
the following, let there be no mistake: I will not write the
abstract of KIDNAPPED; write it who will, I will not.
Boccaccio must have been a clever fellow to write both
argument and story; I am not, ET JE ME RECUSE.
secondary name you may strike out if it seems dull to you.
The book, however, falls in two halves, when the fourth
character appears. I am on p. 82 if you want to know, and
expect to finish on I suppose 110 or so; but it goes slowly,
as you may judge from the fact that this three weeks past, I
have only struggled from p. 58 to p. 82: twenty-four pages,
ET ENCORE sure to be rewritten, in twenty-one days. This is
no prize-taker; not much Waverley Novels about this!
I believe it will be ten chapters of THE EBB TIDE that go to
you; the whole thing should be completed in I fancy twelve;
and the end will follow punctually next mail. It is my great
wish that this might get into THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS for
Gordon Browne to illustrate. For whom, in case he should get
the job, I give you a few notes. A purao is a tree giving
something like a fig with flowers. He will find some
photographs of an old marine curiosity shop in my collection,
which may help him. Attwater's settlement is to be entirely
overshadowed everywhere by tall palms; see photographs of
Fakarava: the verandahs of the house are 12 ft. wide. Don't
let him forget the Figure Head, for which I have a great use
in the last chapter. It stands just clear of the palms on
the crest of the beach at the head of the pier; the flagstaff
not far off; the pier he will understand is perhaps
three feet above high water, not more at any price. The
sailors of the FARALLONE are to be dressed like white sailors
of course. For other things, I remit this excellent artist
to my photographs.
I can't think what to say about the tale, but it seems to me
to go off with a considerable bang; in fact, to be an
extraordinary work: but whether popular! Attwater is a no
end of a courageous attempt, I think you will admit; how far
successful is another affair. If my island ain't a thing of
beauty, I'll be damned. Please observe Wiseman and Wishart;
for incidental grimness, they strike me as in it. Also,
kindly observe the Captain and ADAR; I think that knocks
spots. In short, as you see, I'm a trifle vainglorious. But
O, it has been such a grind! The devil himself would allow a
man to brag a little after such a crucifixion! And indeed
I'm only bragging for a change before I return to the darned
thing lying waiting for me on p. 88, where I last broke down.
I break down at every paragraph, I may observe; and lie here
and sweat, till I can get one sentence wrung out after
another. Strange doom; after having worked so easily for so
long! Did ever anybody see such a story of four characters?
LATER, 2.30.
It may interest you to know that I am entirely TAPU, and live
apart in my chambers like a caged beast. Lloyd has a bad
cold, and Graham and Belle are getting it. Accordingly, I
dwell here without the light of any human countenance or
voice, and strap away at THE EBB TIDE until (as now) I can no
more. Fanny can still come, but is gone to glory now, or to
her garden. Page 88 is done, and must be done over again tomorrow,
and I confess myself exhausted. Pity a man who can't
work on along when he has nothing else on earth to do! But I
have ordered Jack, and am going for a ride in the bush
presently to refresh the machine; then back to a lonely
dinner and durance vile. I acquiesce in this hand of fate;
for I think another cold just now would just about do for me.
I have scarce yet recovered the two last.
My progress is crabwise, and I fear only IX. chapters will be
ready for the mail. I am on p. 88 again, and with half an
idea of going back again to 85. We shall see when we come to
read: I used to regard reading as a pleasure in my old light
days. All the house are down with the influenza in a body,
except Fanny and me. The influenza appears to become endemic
here, but it has always been a scourge in the islands.
Witness the beginning of THE EBB TIDE, which was observed
long before the Iffle had distinguished himself at home by
such Napoleonic conquests. I am now of course 'quite a
recluse,' and it is very stale, and there is no amanuensis to
carry me over my mail, to which I shall have to devote many
hours that would have been more usefully devoted to THE EBB
TIDE. For you know you can dictate at all hours of the day
and at any odd moment; but to sit down and write with your
red right hand is a very different matter.
Well, I believe I've about finished the thing, I mean as far
as the mail is to take it. Chapter X. is now in Lloyd's
hands for remarks, and extends in its present form to p. 93
incl. On the 12th of May, I see by looking back, I was on p.
82, not for the first time; so that I have made 11 pages in
nine livelong days. Well! up a high hill he heaved a huge
round stone. But this Flaubert business must be resisted in
the premises. Or is it the result of influenza? God forbid.
Fanny is down now, and the last link that bound me to my
fellow men is severed. I sit up here, and write, and read
Renan's ORIGINES, which is certainly devilish interesting; I
read his Nero yesterday, it is very good, O, very good! But
he is quite a Michelet; the general views, and such a piece
of character painting, excellent; but his method sheer
lunacy. You can see him take up the block which he had just
rejected, and make of it the corner-stone: a maddening way to
deal with authorities; and the result so little like history
that one almost blames oneself for wasting time. But the
time is not wasted; the conspectus is always good, and the
blur that remains on the mind is probably just enough. I
have been enchanted with the unveiling of Revelations. And
how picturesque that return of the false Nero! The Apostle
John is rather discredited. And to think how one had read
the thing so often, and never understood the attacks upon St.
Paul! I remember when I was a child, and we came to the Four
Beasts that were all over eyes, the sickening terror with
which I was filled. If that was Heaven, what, in the name of
Davy Jones and the aboriginal night-mare, could Hell be?
Take it for all in all, L'ANTECHRIST is worth reading. The
HISTOIRE D'ISRAEL did not surprise me much; I had read those
Hebrew sources with more intelligence than the New Testament,
and was quite prepared to admire Ahab and Jezebel, etc.
Indeed, Ahab has always been rather a hero of mine; I mean
since the years of discretion.
And here I am back again on p. 85! the last chapter demanding
an entire revision, which accordingly it is to get. And
where my mail is to come in, God knows! This forced,
violent, alembicated style is most abhorrent to me; it can't
be helped; the note was struck years ago on the JANET NICOLL,
and has to be maintained somehow; and I can only hope the
intrinsic horror and pathos, and a kind of fierce glow of
colour there is to it, and the surely remarkable wealth of
striking incident, may guide our little shallop into port.
If Gordon Browne is to get it, he should see the Brassey
photographs of Papeete. But mind, the three waifs were never
in the town; only on the beach and in the calaboose. By
George, but it's a good thing to illustrate for a man like
that! Fanny is all right again. False alarm! I was down
yesterday afternoon at Paupata, and heard much growling of
war, and the delightful news that the C. J. and the President
are going to run away from Mulinuu and take refuge in the
Tivoli hotel.
And lots of pleasures before me, no doubt! Among others the
attempt to extract an answer from - before mail time, which
may succeed or may not.
THE EBB TIDE, all but (I take it) fifteen pages, is now in
your hands - possibly only about eleven pp. It is hard to
say. But there it is, and you can do your best with it.
Personally, I believe I would in this case make even a
sacrifice to get Gordon Browne and copious illustration. I
guess in ten days I shall have finished with it; then I go
next to D. BALFOUR, and get the proofs ready: a nasty job for
me, as you know. And then? Well, perhaps I'll take a go at
the family history. I think that will be wise, as I am so
much off work. And then, I suppose, WEIR OF HERMISTON, but
it may be anything. I am discontented with THE EBB TIDE,
naturally; there seems such a veil of words over it; and I
like more and more naked writing; and yet sometimes one has a
longing for full colour and there comes the veil again. THE
YOUNG CHEVALIER is in very full colour, and I fear it for
that reason. -
R. L S.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Still grinding at Chap. XI. I began many
days ago on p. 93, and am still on p. 93, which is
exhilarating, but the thing takes shape all the same and
should make a pretty lively chapter for an end of it. For
XII. is only a footnote AD EXPLICANDUM.
Back on p. 93. I was on 100 yesterday, but read it over and
condemned it.
10 A. M.
I have worked up again to 97, but how? The deuce fly away
with literature, for the basest sport in creation. But it's
got to come straight! and if possible, so that I may finish
D. BALFOUR in time for the same mail. What a getting
upstairs! This is Flaubert outdone. Belle, Graham, and
Lloyd leave to-day on a malaga down the coast; to be absent a
week or so: this leaves Fanny, me, and -, who seems a nice,
kindly fellow.
I am nearly dead with dyspepsia, over-smoking, and
unremunerative overwork. Last night, I went to bed by seven;
woke up again about ten for a minute to find myself lightheaded
and altogether off my legs; went to sleep again, and
woke this morning fairly fit. I have crippled on to p. 101,
but I haven't read it yet, so do not boast. What kills me is
the frame of mind of one of the characters; I cannot get it
through. Of course that does not interfere with my total
inability to write; so that yesterday I was a living halfhour
upon a single clause and have a gallery of variants that
would surprise you. And this sort of trouble (which I cannot
avoid) unfortunately produces nothing when done but
alembication and the far-fetched. Well, read it with mercy!
8 A.M.
Going to bed. Have read it, and believe the chapter
practically done at last. But lord! it has been a business.
JULY 3RD, 8.15.
The draft is finished, the end of Chapter II. and the tale,
and I have only eight pages WIEDERZUARBEITEN. This is just a
cry of joy in passing.
Knocked out of time. Did 101 and 102. Alas, no more to-day,
as I have to go down town to a meeting. Just as well though,
as my thumb is about done up.
Now for a little snippet of my life. Yesterday, 12.30, in a
heavenly day of sun and trade, I mounted my horse and set
off. A boy opens my gate for me. 'Sleep and long life! A
blessing on your journey,' says he. And I reply 'Sleep, long
life! A blessing on the house!' Then on, down the lime
lane, a rugged, narrow, winding way, that seems almost as if
it was leading you into Lyonesse, and you might see the head
and shoulders of a giant looking in. At the corner of the
road I meet the inspector of taxes, and hold a diplomatic
interview with him; he wants me to pay taxes on the new
house; I am informed I should not till next year; and we
part, RE INFECTA, he promising to bring me decisions, I
assuring him that, if I find any favouritism, he will find me
the most recalcitrant tax-payer on the island. Then I have a
talk with an old servant by the wayside. A little further I
pass two children coming up. 'Love!' say I; 'are you two
chiefly-proceeding inland?' and they say, 'Love! yes!' and
the interesting ceremony is finished. Down to the post
office, where I find Vitrolles and (Heaven reward you!) the
White Book, just arrived per UPOLU, having gone the wrong way
round, by Australia; also six copies of ISLAND NIGHTS'
ENTERTAINMENTS. Some of Weatherall's illustrations are very
clever; but O Lord! the lagoon! I did say it was 'shallow,'
but, O dear, not so shallow as that a man could stand up in
it! I had still an hour to wait for my meeting, so
Postmaster Davis let me sit down in his room and I had a
bottle of beer in, and read A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE. Have you
seen it coming out in LONGMAN'S? My dear Colvin! 'tis the
most exquisite pleasure; a real chivalrous yarn, like the
Dumas' and yet unlike. Thereafter to the meeting of the five
newspaper proprietors. Business transacted, I have to gallop
home and find the boys waiting to be paid at the doorstep.
Yesterday, Sunday, the Rev. Dr. Browne, secretary to the
Wesleyan Mission, and the man who made the war in the Western
Islands and was tried for his life in Fiji, came up, and we
had a long, important talk about Samoa. O, if I could only
talk to the home men! But what would it matter? none of them
know, none of them care. If we could only have Macgregor
here with his schooner, you would hear of no more troubles in
Samoa. That is what we want; a man that knows and likes the
natives, QUI PAYE DE SA PERSONNE, AND is not afraid of
hanging when necessary. We don't want bland Swedish humbugs,
and fussy, fostering German barons. That way the maelstrom
lies, and we shall soon be in it.
I have to-day written 103 and 104, all perfectly wrong, and
shall have to rewrite them. This tale is devilish, and
Chapter XI. the worst of the lot. The truth is of course
that I am wholly worked out; but it's nearly done, and shall
go somehow according to promise. I go against all my gods,
and say it is NOT WORTH WHILE to massacre yourself over the
last few pages of a rancid yarn, that the reviewers will
quite justly tear to bits. As for D.B., no hope, I fear,
this mail, but we'll see what the afternoon does for me.
Well, it's done. Those tragic 16 pp. are at last finished,
and I have put away thirty-two pages of chips, and have spent
thirteen days about as nearly in Hell as a man could expect
to live through. It's done, and of course it ain't worth
while, and who cares? There it is, and about as grim a tale
as was ever written, and as grimy, and as hateful.
Accidentally killed upon this
10th September, 1889.
I am exulting to do nothing. It pours with rain from the
westward, very unusual kind of weather; I was standing out on
the little verandah in front of my room this morning, and
there went through me or over me a wave of extraordinary and
apparently baseless emotion. I literally staggered. And
then the explanation came, and I knew I had found a frame of
mind and body that belonged to Scotland, and particularly to
the neighbourhood of Callander. Very odd these identities of
sensation, and the world of connotations implied; highland
huts, and peat smoke, and the brown, swirling rivers, and wet
clothes, and whiskey, and the romance of the past, and that
indescribable bite of the whole thing at a man's heart, which
is - or rather lies at the bottom of - a story.
I don't know if you are a Barbey d'Aurevilly-an. I am. I
have a great delight in his Norman stories. Do you know the
they reek of the soil and the past. But I was rather
thinking just now of LE RIDEAU CRAMOISI, and its adorable
setting of the stopped coach, the dark street, the home-going
in the inn yard, and the red blind illuminated. Without
doubt, THERE was an identity of sensation; one of those
conjunctions in life that had filled Barbey full to the brim,
and permanently bent his memory.
I wonder exceedingly if I have done anything at all good; and
who can tell me? and why should I wish to know? In so little
a while, I, and the English language, and the bones of my
descendants, will have ceased to be a memory! And yet - and
yet - one would like to leave an image for a few years upon
men's minds - for fun. This is a very dark frame of mind,
consequent on overwork and the conclusion of the excruciating
EBB TIDE. Adieu.
What do you suppose should be done with THE EBB TIDE? It
would make a volume of 200 pp.; on the other hand, I might
likely have some more stories soon: THE OWL, DEATH IN THE
POT, THE SLEEPER AWAKENED; all these are possible. THE OWL
might be half as long; THE SLEEPER AWAKENED, ditto; DEATH IN
THE POT a deal shorter, I believe. Then there's the GOBETWEEN,
which is not impossible altogether. THE OWL, THE
SLEEPER AWAKENED, and the GO-BETWEEN end reasonably well;
DEATH IN THE POT is an ungodly massacre. O, well, THE OWL
only ends well in so far as some lovers come together, and
nobody is killed at the moment, but you know they are all
doomed, they are Chouan fellows.
Well, the mail is in; no Blue-book, depressing letter from
C.; a long, amusing ramble from my mother; vast masses of
Romeike; they ARE going to war now; and what will that lead
to? and what has driven, them to it but the persistent
misconduct of these two officials? I know I ought to rewrite
the end of this bluidy EBB TIDE: well, I can't. CEST PLUS
FORT QUE MOI; it has to go the way it is, and be jowned to
it! From what I make out of the reviews, I think it would be
better not to republish THE EBB TIDE: but keep it for other
tales, if they should turn up. Very amusing how the reviews
pick out one story and damn the rest I and it is always a
different one. Be sure you send me the article from LE
Since I wrote this last, I have written a whole chapter of my
grandfather, and read it to-night; it was on the whole much
appreciated, and I kind of hope it ain't bad myself. 'Tis a
third writing, but it wants a fourth. By next mail, I
believe I might send you 3 chapters. That is to say FAMILY
could finish my grandfather very easy now; my father and
Uncle Alan stop the way. I propose to call the book:
you, it is going to be a good book. My idea in sending Ms.
would be to get it set up; two proofs to me, one to Professor
Swan, Ardchapel, Helensburgh - mark it private and
confidential - one to yourself; and come on with criticisms!
But I'll have to see. The total plan of the book is this -
i. Domestic Annals.
ii. The Service of the Northern Lights.
iii. The Building of the Bell Rock.
iv. A Houseful of Boys (or, 'The Family in Baxter's Place).
v. Education of an Engineer.
vi. The Grandfather.
vii. Alan Stevenson.
viii. Thomas Stevenson.
There will be an Introduction 'The Surname of Stevenson'
which has proved a mighty queer subject of inquiry. But,
Lord! if I were among libraries.
I shall put in this envelope the end of the ever-to-beexecrated
EBB TIDE, or Stevenson's Blooming Error. Also, a
paper apart for DAVID BALFOUR. The slips must go in another
enclosure, I suspect, owing to their beastly bulk. Anyway,
there are two pieces of work off my mind, and though I could
wish I had rewritten a little more of DAVID, yet it was
plainly to be seen it was impossible. All the points
indicated by you have been brought out; but to rewrite the
end, in my present state of over-exhaustion and fiction -
phobia, would have been madness; and I let it go as it stood.
My grandfather is good enough for me, these days. I do not
work any less; on the whole, if anything, a little more. But
it is different.
The slips go to you in four packets; I hope they are what
they should be, but do not think so. I am at a pitch of
discontent with fiction in all its form - or my forms - that
prevents me being able to be even interested. I have had to
stop all drink; smoking I am trying to stop also. It annoys
me dreadfully: and yet if I take a glass of claret, - I have
a headache the next day! O, and a good headache too; none of
your trifles.
Well, sir, here's to you, and farewell. - Yours ever.
R. L. S.
MY DEAR COLVIN - Yesterday morning, after a day of absolute
temperance, I awoke to the worst headache I had had yet.
Accordingly, temperance was said farewell to, quinine
instituted, and I believe my pains are soon to be over. We
wait, with a kind of sighing impatience, for war to be
declared, or to blow finally off, living in the meanwhile in
a kind of children's hour of firelight and shadow and
preposterous tales; the king seen at night galloping up our
road upon unknown errands and covering his face as he passes
our cook; Mataafa daily surrounded (when he awakes) with
fresh 'white man's boxes' (query, ammunition?) and professing
to be quite ignorant of where they come from; marches of
bodies of men across the island; concealment of ditto in the
bush; the coming on and off of different chiefs; and such a
mass of ravelment and rag-tag as the devil himself could not
Yesterday it rained with but little intermission, but I was
jealous of news. Graham and I got into the saddle about 1
o'clock and off down to town. In town, there was nothing but
rumours going; in the night drums had been beat, the men had
run to arms on Mulinuu from as far as Vaiala, and the alarm
proved false. There were no signs of any gathering in Apia
proper, and the Secretary of State had no news to give. I
believed him, too, for we are brither Scots. Then the
temptation came upon me strong to go on to the ford and see
the Mataafa villages, where we heard there was more afoot.
Off we rode. When we came to Vaimusu, the houses were very
full of men, but all seemingly unarmed. Immediately beyond
is that river over which we passed in our scamper with Lady
Jersey; it was all solitary. Three hundred yards beyond is a
second ford; and there - I came face to face with war. Under
the trees on the further bank sat a picket of seven men with
Winchesters; their faces bright, their eyes ardent. As we
came up, they did not speak or move; only their eyes followed
us. The horses drank, and we passed the ford. 'Talofa!' I
said, and the commandant of the picket said 'Talofa'; and
then, when we were almost by, remembered himself and asked
where we were going. 'To Faamuina,' I said, and we rode on.
Every house by the wayside was crowded with armed men. There
was the European house of a Chinaman on the right-hand side:
a flag of truce flying over the gate - indeed we saw three of
these in what little way we penetrated into Mataafa's lines -
all the foreigners trying to protect their goods; and the
Chinaman's verandah overflowed with men and girls and
Winchesters. By the way we met a party of about ten or a
dozen marching with their guns and cartridge-belts, and the
cheerful alacrity and brightness of their looks set my head
turning with envy and sympathy. Arrived at Vaiusu, the
houses about the MALAE (village green) were thronged with
men, all armed. On the outside of the council-house (which
was all full within) there stood an orator; he had his back
turned to his audience, and seemed to address the world at
large; all the time we were there his strong voice continued
unabated, and I heard snatches of political wisdom rising and
The house of Faamuina stands on a knoll in the MALAE.
Thither we mounted, a boy ran out and took our horses, and we
went in. Faamuina was there himself, his wife Pelepa, three
other chiefs, and some attendants; and here again was this
exulting spectacle as of people on their marriage day.
Faamuina (when I last saw him) was an elderly, limping
gentleman, with much of the debility of age; it was a brighteyed
boy that greeted me; the lady was no less excited; all
had cartridge-belts. We stayed but a little while to smoke a
sului; I would not have kava made, as I thought my escapade
was already dangerous (perhaps even blameworthy) enough. On
the way back, we were much greeted, and on coming to the
ford, the commandant came and asked me if there were many on
the other side. 'Very many,' said I; not that I knew, but I
would not lead them on the ice. 'That is well!' said he, and
the little picket laughed aloud as we splashed into the
river. We returned to Apia, through Apia, and out to
windward as far as Vaiala, where the word went that the men
of the Vaimauga had assembled. We met two boys carrying
pigs, and saw six young men busy cooking in a cook-house; but
no sign of an assembly; no arms, no blackened faces. I
forgot! As we turned to leave Faamuina's, there ran forward
a man with his face blackened, and the back of his lava-lava
girded up so as to show his tattooed hips naked; he leaped
before us, cut a wonderful caper, and flung his knife high in
the air, and caught it. It was strangely savage and
fantastic and high-spirited. I have seen a child doing the
same antics long before in a dance, so that it is plainly an
ACCEPTED SOLEMNITY. I should say that for weeks the children
have been playing with spears. Up by the plantation I took a
short cut, which shall never be repeated, through grass and
weeds over the horses' heads and among rolling stones; I
thought we should have left a horse there, but fortune
favoured us. So home, a little before six, in a dashing
squall of rain, to a bowl of kava and dinner. But the
impression on our minds was extraordinary; the sight of that
picket at the ford, and those ardent, happy faces whirls in
my head; the old aboriginal awoke in both of us and knickered
like a stallion.
It is dreadful to think that I must sit apart here and do
nothing; I do not know if I can stand it out. But you see, I
may be of use to these poor people, if I keep quiet, and if I
threw myself in, I should have a bad job of it to save
myself. There; I have written this to you; and it is still
but 7.30 in the day, and the sun only about one hour up; can
I go back to my old grandpapa, and men sitting with
Winchesters in my mind's eye? No; war is a huge
ENTRAINEMENT; there is no other temptation to be compared to
it, not one. We were all wet, we had been about five hours
in the saddle, mostly riding hard; and we came home like
schoolboys, with such a lightness of spirits, and I am sure
such a brightness of eye, as you could have lit a candle at!
I had two priests to luncheon yesterday: the Bishop and Pere
Remy. They were very pleasant, and quite clean too, which
has been known sometimes not to be - even with bishops.
Monseigneur is not unimposing; with his white beard and his
violet girdle he looks splendidly episcopal, and when our
three waiting lads came up one after another and kneeled
before him in the big hall, and kissed his ring, it did me
good for a piece of pageantry. Remy is very engaging; he is
a little, nervous, eager man, like a governess, and brimful
of laughter and small jokes. So is the bishop indeed, and
our luncheon party went off merrily - far more merrily than
many a German spread, though with so much less liquor. One
trait was delicious. With a complete ignorance of the
Protestant that I would scarce have imagined, he related to
us (as news) little stories from the gospels, and got the
names all wrong! His comments were delicious, and to our
ears a thought irreverent. 'AH! IL CONNAISSAIT SON MONDE,
Down with Fanny and Belle, to lunch at the International.
Heard there about the huge folly of the hour, all the Mulinuu
ammunition having been yesterday marched openly to vaults in
Matafele; and this morning, on a cry of protest from the
whites, openly and humiliatingly disinterred and marched back
again. People spoke of it with a kind of shrill note that
did not quite satisfy me. They seemed not quite well at
ease. Luncheon over, we rode out on the Malie road. All was
quiet in Vaiusu, and when we got to the second ford, alas!
there was no picket - which was just what Belle had come to
sketch. On through quite empty roads; the houses deserted,
never a gun to be seen; and at last a drum and a penny
whistle playing in Vaiusu, and a cricket match on the MALAE!
Went up to Faamuina's; he is a trifle uneasy, though he gives
us kava. I cannot see what ails him, then it appears that he
has an engagement with the Chief Justice at half-past two to
sell a piece of land. Is this the reason why war has
disappeared? We ride back, stopping to sketch here and there
the fords, a flag of truce, etc. I ride on to Public Hall
Committee and pass an hour with my committees very heavily.
To the hotel to dinner, then to the ball, and home by eleven,
very tired. At the ball I heard some news, of how the chief
of Letonu said that I was the source of all this trouble, and
should be punished, and my family as well. This, and the
rudeness of the man at the ford of the Gase-gase, looks but
ill; I should have said that Faamuina, as he approached the
first ford, was spoken to by a girl, and immediately said
goodbye and plunged into the bush; the girl had told him
there was a war party out from Mulinuu; and a little further
on, as we stopped to sketch a flag of truce, the beating of
drums and the sound of a bugle from that direction startled
us. But we saw nothing, and I believe Mulinuu is (at least
at present) incapable of any act of offence. One good job,
these threats to my home and family take away all my childish
temptation to go out and fight. Our force must be here, to
protect ourselves. I see panic rising among the whites; I
hear the shrill note of it in their voices, and they talk
already about a refuge on the war ships. There are two here,
both German; and the ORLANDO is expected presently.
Well, the war has at last begun. For four or five days, Apia
has been filled by these poor children with their faces
blacked, and the red handkerchief about their brows, that
makes the Malietoa uniform, and the boats have been coming in
from the windward, some of them 50 strong, with a drum and a
bugle on board - the bugle always ill-played - and a sort of
jester leaping and capering on the sparred nose of the boat,
and the whole crew uttering from time to time a kind of
menacing ululation. Friday they marched out to the bush; and
yesterday morning we heard that some had returned to their
houses for the night, as they found it 'so uncomfortable.'
After dinner a messenger came up to me with a note, that the
wounded were arriving at the Mission House. Fanny, Lloyd and
I saddled and rode off with a lantern; it was a fine starry
night, though pretty cold. We left the lantern at Tanugamanono,
and then down in the starlight. I found Apia, and
myself, in a strange state of flusteration; my own excitement
was gloomy and (I may say) truculent; others appeared
imbecile; some sullen. The best place in the whole town was
the hospital. A longish frame-house it was, with a big table
in the middle for operations, and ten Samoans, each with an
average of four sympathisers, stretched along the walls.
Clarke was there, steady as a die; Miss Large, little
spectacled angel, showed herself a real trump; the nice,
clean, German orderlies in their white uniforms looked and
meant business. (I hear a fine story of Miss Large - a castiron
teetotaller - going to the public-house for a bottle of
The doctors were not there when I arrived; but presently it
was observed that one of the men was going cold. He was a
magnificent Samoan, very dark, with a noble aquiline
countenance, like an Arab, I suppose, and was surrounded by
seven people, fondling his limbs as he lay: he was shot
through both lungs. And an orderly was sent to the town for
the (German naval) doctors, who were dining there. Meantime
I found an errand of my own. Both Clarke and Miss Large
expressed a wish to have the public hall, of which I am
chairman, and I set off down town, and woke people out of
their beds, and got a committee together, and (with a great
deal of difficulty from one man, whom we finally overwhelmed)
got the public hall for them. Bar the one man, the committee
was splendid, and agreed in a moment to share the expense if
the shareholders object. Back to the hospital about 11.30;
found the German doctors there. Two men were going now, one
that was shot in the bowels - he was dying rather hard, in a
gloomy stupor of pain and laudanum, silent, with contorted
face. The chief, shot through the lungs, was lying on one
side, awaiting the last angel; his family held his hands and
legs; they were all speechless, only one woman suddenly
clasped his knee, and 'keened' for the inside of five
seconds, and fell silent again. Went home, and to bed about
two A.M. What actually passed seems undiscoverable; but the
Mataafas were surely driven back out of Vaitele; that is a
blow to them, and the resistance was far greater than had
been anticipated - which is a blow to the Laupepas. All
seems to indicate a long and bloody war.
Frank's house in Mulinuu was likewise filled with wounded;
many dead bodies were brought in; I hear with certainty of
five, wrapped in mats; and a pastor goes to-morrow to the
field to bring others. The Laupepas brought in eleven heads
to Mulinuu, and to the great horror and consternation of the
native mind, one proved to be a girl, and was identified as
that of a Taupou - or Maid of the Village - from Savaii. I
hear this morning, with great relief, that it has been
returned to Malie, wrapped in the most costly silk
handkerchiefs, and with an apologetic embassy. This could
easily happen. The girl was of course attending on her
father with ammunition, and got shot; her hair was cut short
to make her father's war head-dress - even as our own Sina's
is at this moment; and the decollator was probably, in his
red flurry of fight, wholly unconscious of her sex. I am
sorry for him in the future; he must make up his mind to many
bitter jests - perhaps to vengeance. But what an end to one
chosen for her beauty and, in the time of peace, watched over
by trusty crones and hunchbacks!
Can I write or not? I played lawn tennis in the morning, and
after lunch down with Graham to Apia. Ulu, he that was shot
in the lungs, still lives; he that was shot in the bowels is
gone to his fathers, poor, fierce child! I was able to be of
some very small help, and in the way of helping myself to
information, to prove myself a mere gazer at meteors. But
there seems no doubt the Mataafas for the time are scattered;
the most of our friends are involved in this disaster, and
Mataafa himself - who might have swept the islands a few
months ago - for him to fall so poorly, doubles my regret.
They say the Taupou had a gun and fired; probably an excuse
manufactured EX POST FACTO. I go down to-morrow at 12, to
stay the afternoon, and help Miss Large. In the hospital today,
when I first entered it, there were no attendants; only
the wounded and their friends, all equally sleeping and their
heads poised upon the wooden pillows. There is a pretty
enough boy there, slightly wounded, whose fate is to be
envied: two girls, and one of the most beautiful, with
beaming eyes, tend him and sleep upon his pillow. In the
other corner, another young man, very patient and brave, lies
wholly deserted. Yet he seems to me far the better of the
two; but not so pretty! Heavens, what a difference that
makes; in our not very well proportioned bodies and our
finely hideous faces, the 1-32nd - rather the 1-64th - this
way or that! Sixteen heads in all at Mulinuu. I am so stiff
I can scarce move without a howl.
Some news that Mataafa is gone to Savaii by way of Manono;
this may mean a great deal more warfaring, and no great
issue. (When Sosimo came in this morning with my breakfast
he had to lift me up. It is no joke to play lawn tennis
after carrying your right arm in a sling so many years.)
What a hard, unjust business this is! On the 28th, if
Mataafa had moved, he could have still swept Mulinuu. He
waited, and I fear he is now only the stick of a rocket.
No more political news; but many rumours. The government
troops are off to Manono; no word of Mataafa. O, there is a
passage in my mother's letter which puzzles me as to a date.
Is it next Christmas you are coming? or the Christmas after?
This is most important, and must be understood at once. If
it is next Christmas, I could not go to Ceylon, for lack of
gold, and you would have to adopt one of the following
alternatives: 1st, either come straight on here and pass a
month with us; 'tis the rainy season, but we have often
lovely weather. Or (2nd) come to Hawaii and I will meet you
there. Hawaii is only a week's sail from S. Francisco,
making only about sixteen days on the heaving ocean; and the
steamers run once a fortnight, so that you could turn round;
and you could thus pass a day or two in the States - a
fortnight even - and still see me. But I have sworn to take
no further excursions till I have money saved to pay for
them; and to go to Ceylon and back would be torture unless I
had a lot. You must answer this at once, please; so that I
may know what to do. We would dearly like you to come on
here. I'll tell you how it can be done; I can come up and
meet you at Hawaii, and if you had at all got over your seasickness,
I could just come on board and we could return
together to Samoa, and you could have a month of our life
here, which I believe you could not help liking. Our horses
are the devil, of course, miserable screws, and some of them
a little vicious. I had a dreadful fright - the passage in
my mother's letter is recrossed and I see it says the end of
/94: so much the better, then; but I would like to submit to
you my alternative plan. I could meet you at Hawaii, and
reconduct you to Hawaii, so that we could have a full six
weeks together and I believe a little over, and you would see
this place of mine, and have a sniff of native life, native
foods, native houses - and perhaps be in time to see the
German flag raised, who knows? - and we could generally yarn
for all we were worth. I should like you to see Vailima; and
I should be curious to know how the climate affected you. It
is quite hit or miss; it suits me, it suits Graham, it suits
all our family; others it does not suit at all. It is either
gold or poison. I rise at six, the rest at seven; lunch is
at 12; at five we go to lawn tennis till dinner at six; and
to roost early.
A man brought in a head to Mulinuu in great glory; they
washed the black paint off, and behold! it was his brother.
When I last heard he was sitting in his house, with the head
upon his lap, and weeping. Barbarous war is an ugly
business; but I believe the civilised is fully uglier; but
Lord! what fun!
I should say we now have definite news that there are THREE
women's heads; it was difficult to get it out of the natives,
who are all ashamed, and the women all in terror of
reprisals. Nothing has been done to punish or disgrace these
hateful innovators. It was a false report that the head had
been returned.
Mataafa driven away from Savaii. I cannot write about this,
and do not know what should be the end of it.
Haggard and Ahrens (a German clerk) to lunch yesterday.
There is no real certain news yet: I must say, no man could
SWEAR to any result; but the sky looks horribly black for
Mataafa and so many of our friends along with him. The thing
has an abominable, a beastly, nightmare interest. But it's
wonderful generally how little one cares about the wounded;
hospital sights, etc.; things that used to murder me. I was
far more struck with the excellent way in which things were
managed; as if it had been a peep-show; I held some of the
things at an operation, and did not care a dump.
Sunday came the KATOOMBA, Captain Bickford, C.M.G.
Yesterday, Graham and I went down to call, and find he has
orders to suppress Mataafa at once, and has to go down to-day
before daybreak to Manono. He is a very capable, energetic
man; if he had only come ten days ago, all this would have
gone by; but now the questions are thick and difficult. (1)
Will Mataafa surrender? (2) Will his people allow themselves
to be disarmed? (3) What will happen to them if they do?
(4) What will any of them believe after former deceptions?
The three consuls were scampering on horseback to Leulumoega
to the King; no Cusack-Smith, without whose accession I could
not send a letter to Mataafa. I rode up here, wrote my
letter in the sweat of the concordance and with the ablebodied
help of Lloyd - and dined. Then down in continual
showers and pitchy darkness, and to Cusack-Smith's; not rereturned.
Back to the inn for my horse, and to C.-S.'s, when
I find him just returned and he accepts my letter. Thence
home, by 12.30, jolly tired and wet. And to-day have been in
a crispation of energy and ill-temper, raking my wretched
mail together. It is a hateful business, waiting for the
news; it may come to a fearful massacre yet. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
AUGUST, 1893.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Quite impossible to write. Your letter is
due to-day; a nasty, rainy-like morning with huge blue
clouds, and a huge indigo shadow on the sea, and my lamp
still burning at near 7. Let me humbly give you news. Fanny
seems on the whole the most, or the only, powerful member of
the family; for some days she has been the Flower of the
Flock. Belle is begging for quinine. Lloyd and Graham have
both been down with 'belly belong him' (Black Boy speech).
As for me, I have to lay aside my lawn tennis, having (as was
to be expected) had a smart but eminently brief hemorrhage.
I am also on the quinine flask. I have been re-casting the
beginning of the HANGING JUDGE or WEIR OF HERMISTON; then I
have been cobbling on my grandfather, whose last chapter
(there are only to be four) is in the form of pieces of
paper, a huge welter of inconsequence, and that glimmer of
faith (or hope) which one learns at this trade, that somehow
and some time, by perpetual staring and glowering and
rewriting, order will emerge. It is indeed a queer hope;
there is one piece for instance that I want in - I cannot put
it one place for a good reason - I cannot put it another for
a better - and every time I look at it, I turn sick and put
the Ms. away.
Well, your letter hasn't come, and a number of others are
missing. It looks as if a mail-bag had gone on, so I'll
blame nobody, and proceed to business.
It looks as if I was going to send you the first three
chapters of my Grandfather. . . . If they were set up, it
would be that much anxiety off my mind. I have a strange
feeling of responsibility, as if I had my ancestors' SOULS in
my charge, and might miscarry with them.
There's a lot of work gone into it, and a lot more is needed.
Still Chapter I. seems about right to me, and much of Chapter
II. Chapter III. I know nothing of, as I told you. And
Chapter IV. is at present all ends and beginnings; but it can
be pulled together.
This is all I have been able to screw up to you for this
month, and I may add that it is not only more than you
deserve, but just about more than I was equal to. I have
been and am entirely useless; just able to tinker at my
Grandfather. The three chapters - perhaps also a little of
the fourth - will come home to you next mail by the hand of
my cousin Graham Balfour, a very nice fellow whom I recommend
to you warmly - and whom I think you will like. This will
give you time to consider my various and distracted schemes.
All our wars are over in the meantime, to begin again as soon
as the war-ships leave. Adieu.
R. L. S.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Your pleasing letter RE THE EBB TIDE, to
hand. I propose, if it be not too late, to delete Lloyd's
name. He has nothing to do with the last half. The first we
wrote together, as the beginning of a long yarn. The second
is entirely mine; and I think it rather unfair on the young
man to couple his name with so infamous a work. Above all,
as you had not read the two last chapters, which seem to me
the most ugly and cynical of all.
You will see that I am not in a good humour; and I am not.
It is not because of your letter, but because of the
complicated miseries that surround me and that I choose to
say nothing of. Life is not all Beer and Skittles. The
inherent tragedy of things works itself out from white to
black and blacker, and the poor things of a day look ruefully
on. Does it shake my cast-iron faith? I cannot say it does.
I believe in an ultimate decency of things; ay, and if I woke
in hell, should still believe it! But it is hard walking,
and I can see my own share in the missteps, and can bow my
head to the result, like an old, stern, unhappy devil of a
Norseman, as my ultimate character is. . . .
Well, IL FAUT CULTIVER SON JARDIN. That last expression of
poor, unhappy human wisdom I take to my heart and go to ST.
24th AUG.
And did, and worked about 2 hours and got to sleep ultimately
and 'a' the clouds has blawn away.' 'Be sure we'll have some
pleisand weather, When a' the clouds (storms?) has blawn
(gone?) away.' Verses that have a quite inexplicable
attraction for me, and I believe had for Burns. They have no
merit, but are somehow good. I am now in a most excellent
I am deep in ST. IVES which, I believe, will be the next
novel done. But it is to be clearly understood that I
promise nothing, and may throw in your face the very last
thing you expect - or I expect. ST. IVES will (to my mind)
not be wholly bad. It is written in rather a funny style; a
little stilted and left-handed; the style of St. Ives; also,
to some extent, the style of R. L. S. dictating. ST. IVES
is unintellectual and except as an adventure novel, dull.
But the adventures seem to me sound and pretty probable; and
it is a love story. Speed his wings!
REMETS A VOUS ECRIRE. ST. IVES is now in the 5th chapter
copying; in the 14th chapter of the dictated draft. I do not
believe I shall end by disliking it.
Well, here goes again for the news. Fanny is VERY WELL
indeed, and in good spirits; I am in good spirits but not
VERY well; Lloyd is in good spirits and very well; Belle has
a real good fever which has put her pipe out wholly. Graham
goes back this mail. He takes with him three chapters of THE
FAMILY, and is to go to you as soon as he can. He cannot be
much the master of his movements, but you grip him when you
can and get all you can from him, as he has lived about six
months with us and he can tell you just what is true and what
is not - and not the dreams of dear old Ross. He is a good
fellow, is he not?
Since you rather revise your views of THE EBB TIDE, I think
Lloyd's name might stick, but I'll leave it to you. I'll
tell you just how it stands. Up to the discovery of the
champagne, the tale was all planned between us and drafted by
Lloyd; from that moment he has had nothing to do with it
except talking it over. For we changed our plan, gave up the
projected Monte Cristo, and cut it down for a short story.
My jmpression - (I beg your pardon - this is a local joke - a
firm here had on its beer labels, 'sole jmporters') - is that
it will never be popular, but might make a little SUCCES DE
SCANDALE. However, I'm done with it now, and not sorry, and
the crowd may rave and mumble its bones for what I care.
Hole essential. I am sorry about the maps; but I want 'em
for next edition, so see and have proofs sent. You are quite
right about the bottle and the great Huish, I must try to
make it clear. No, I will not write a play for Irving nor
for the devil. Can you not see that the work of
FALSIFICATION which a play demands is of all tasks the most
ungrateful? And I have done it a long while - and nothing
ever came of it.
Consider my new proposal, I mean Honolulu. You would get the
Atlantic and the Rocky Mountains, would you not? for bracing.
And so much less sea! And then you could actually see
Vailima, which I WOULD like you to, for it's beautiful and my
home and tomb that is to be; though it's a wrench not to be
planted in Scotland - that I can never deny - if I could only
be buried in the hills, under the heather and a table
tombstone like the martyrs, where the whaups and plovers are
crying! Did you see a man who wrote the STICKIT MINISTER,
and dedicated it to me, in words that brought the tears to my
eyes every time I looked at them, 'Where about the graves of
the martyrs the whaups are crying. HIS heart remembers how.'
Ah, by God, it does! Singular that I should fulfil the Scots
destiny throughout, and live a voluntary exile, and have my
head filled with the blessed, beastly place all the time!
And now a word as regards the delusions of the dear Ross, who
remembers, I believe, my letters and Fanny's when we were
first installed, and were really hoeing a hard row. We have
salad, beans, cabbages, tomatoes, asparagus, kohl-rabi,
oranges, limes, barbadines, pine-apples, Cape gooseberries -
galore; pints of milk and cream; fresh meat five days a week.
It is the rarest thing for any of us to touch a tin; and the
gnashing of teeth when it has to be done is dreadful - for no
one who has not lived on them for six months knows what the
Hatred of the Tin is. As for exposure, my weakness is
certainly the reverse; I am sometimes a month without leaving
the verandah - for my sins, be it said! Doubtless, when I go
about and, as the Doctor says, 'expose myself to malaria,' I
am in far better health; and I would do so more too - for I
do not mean to be silly - but the difficulties are great.
However, you see how much the dear Doctor knows of my diet
and habits! Malaria practically does not exist in these
islands; it is a negligeable quantity. What really bothers
us a little is the mosquito affair - the so-called
elephantiasis - ask Ross about it. A real romance of natural
history, QUOI!
Hi! stop! you say THE EBB TIDE is the 'working out of an
artistic problem of a kind.' Well, I should just bet it was!
You don't like Attwater. But look at my three rogues;
they're all there, I'll go bail. Three types of the bad man,
the weak man, and the strong man with a weakness, that are
gone through and lived out.
Yes, of course I was sorry for Mataafa, but a good deal
sorrier and angrier about the mismanagement of all the white
officials. I cannot bear to write about that. Manono all
destroyed, one house standing in Apolima, the women stripped,
the prisoners beaten with whips - and the women's heads taken
- all under white auspices. And for upshot and result of so
much shame to the white powers - Tamasese already conspiring!
as I knew and preached in vain must be the case! Well, well,
it is no fun to meddle in politics!
I suppose you're right about Simon. But it is Symon
throughout in that blessed little volume my father bought for
me in Inverness in the year of grace '81, I believe - the
trial of James Stewart, with the Jacobite pamphlet and the
dying speech appended - out of which the whole of Davie has
already been begotten, and which I felt it a kind of loyalty
to follow. I really ought to have it bound in velvet and
gold, if I had any gratitude! and the best of the lark is,
that the name of David Balfour is not anywhere within the
bounds of it.
A pretty curious instance of the genesis of a book. I am
delighted at your good word for DAVID; I believe the two
together make up much the best of my work and perhaps of what
is in me. I am not ashamed of them, at least. There is one
hitch; instead of three hours between the two parts, I fear
there have passed three years over Davie's character; but do
not tell anybody; see if they can find it out for themselves;
and no doubt his experiences in KIDNAPPED would go far to
form him. I would like a copy to go to G. Meredith.
Well, here is a new move. It is likely I may start with
Graham next week and go to Honolulu to meet the other steamer
and return: I do believe a fortnight at sea would do me good;
yet I am not yet certain. The crowded UP-steamer sticks in
my throat.
Yesterday was perhaps the brightest in the annals of Vailima.
I got leave from Captain Bickford to have the band of the
KATOOMBA come up, and they came, fourteen of 'em, with drum,
fife, cymbals and bugles, blue jackets, white caps, and
smiling faces. The house was all decorated with scented
greenery above and below. We had not only our own nine outdoor
workers, but a contract party that we took on in charity
to pay their war-fine; the band besides, as it came up the
mountain, had collected a following of children by the way,
and we had a picking of Samoan ladies to receive them.
Chicken, ham, cake, and fruits were served out with coffee
and lemonade, and all the afternoon we had rounds of claret
negus flavoured with rum and limes. They played to us, they
danced, they sang, they tumbled. Our boys came in the end of
the verandah and gave THEM a dance for a while. It was
anxious work getting this stopped once it had begun, but I
knew the band was going on a programme. Finally they gave
three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, shook hands, formed up
and marched off playing - till a kicking horse in the paddock
put their pipes out something of the suddenest - we thought
the big drum was gone, but Simele flew to the rescue. And so
they wound away down the hill with ever another call of the
bugle, leaving us extinct with fatigue, but perhaps the most
contented hosts that ever watched the departure of successful
guests. Simply impossible to tell how well these bluejackets
behaved; a most interesting lot of men; this
education of boys for the navy is making a class, wholly
apart - how shall I call them? - a kind of lower-class public
school boy, well-mannered, fairly intelligent, sentimental as
a sailor. What is more shall be writ on board ship if
Please send CATRIONA to G. Meredith.
To-morrow I reach Honolulu. Good-morning to your honour. R.
L. S.
OCT. 23rd, 1893.
DEAR COLVIN, - My wife came up on the steamer and we go home
together in 2 days. I am practically all right, only sleepy
and tired easily, slept yesterday from 11 to 11.45, from 1 to
2.50, went to bed at 8 P.M., and with an hour's interval
slept till 6 A.M., close upon 14 hours out of the 24. We
sail to-morrow. I am anxious to get home, though this has
been an interesting visit, and politics have been curious
indeed to study. We go to P.P.C. on the 'Queen' this
morning; poor, recluse lady, ABREUVEE D'INJURES QU'ELLE EST.
Had a rather annoying lunch on board the American man-of-war,
with a member of the P.G. (provincial government); and a good
deal of anti-royalist talk, which I had to sit out - not only
for my host's sake, but my fellow guests. At last, I took
the lead and changed the conversation.
R. L. S.
I am being busted here by party named Hutchinson. Seems
Home again, and found all well, thank God. I am perfectly
well again and ruddier than the cherry. Please note that
8000 is not bad for a volume of short stories; the MERRY MEN
did a good deal worse; the short story never sells. I hope
CATRIONA will do; that is the important. The reviews seem
mixed and perplexed, and one had the peculiar virtue to make
me angry. I am in a fair way to expiscate my family history.
Fanny and I had a lovely voyage down, with our new C. J. and
the American Land Commissioner, and on the whole, and for
these disgusting steamers, a pleasant ship's company. I
cannot understand why you don't take to the Hawaii scheme.
Do you understand? You cross the Atlantic in six days, and
go from 'Frisco to Honolulu in seven. Thirteen days at sea
IN ALL. - I have no wish to publish THE EBB TIDE as a book,
let it wait. It will look well in the portfolio. I would
like a copy, of course, for that end; and to 'look upon't
again' - which I scarce dare.
This is disgraceful. I have done nothing; neither work nor
letters. On the Me (May) day, we had a great triumph; our
Protestant boys, instead of going with their own villages and
families, went of their own accord in the Vailima uniform;
Belle made coats for them on purpose to complete the uniform,
they having bought the stuff; and they were hailed as they
marched in as the Tama-ona - the rich man's children. This
is really a score; it means that Vailima is publicly taken as
a family. Then we had my birthday feast a week late, owing
to diarrhoea on the proper occasion. The feast was laid in
the Hall, and was a singular mass of food: 15 pigs, 100 lbs.
beef, 100 lbs. pork, and the fruit and filigree in a
proportion. We had sixty horse-posts driven in the gate
paddock; how many guests I cannot guess, perhaps 150. They
came between three and four and left about seven. Seumanu
gave me one of his names; and when my name was called at the
ava drinking, behold, it was AU MAI TAUA MA MANU-VAO! You
would scarce recognise me, if you heard me thus referred to!
Two days after, we hired a carriage in Apia, Fanny, Belle,
Lloyd and I, and drove in great style, with a native
outrider, to the prison; a huge gift of ava and tobacco under
the seats. The prison is now under the PULE of an Austrian,
Captain Wurmbrand, a soldier of fortune in Servia and Turkey,
a charming, clever, kindly creature, who is adored by 'HIS
chiefs' (as he calls them) meaning OUR political prisoners.
And we came into the yard, walled about with tinned iron, and
drank ava with the prisoners and the captain. It may amuse
you to hear how it is proper to drink ava. When the cup is
handed you, you reach your arm out somewhat behind you, and
slowly pour a libation, saying with somewhat the manner of
NEI.' 'Be it (high-chief) partaken of by the God. How (high
chief) beautiful to view is this (high chief) gathering.'
This pagan practice is very queer. I should say that the
prison ava was of that not very welcome form that we
elegantly call spit-ava, but of course there was no escape,
and it had to be drunk. Fanny and I rode home, and I
moralised by the way. Could we ever stand Europe again? did
she appreciate that if we were in London, we should be
ACTUALLY JOSTLED in the street? and there was nobody in the
whole of Britain who knew how to take ava like a gentleman?
'Tis funny to be thus of two civilisations - or, if you like,
of one civilisation and one barbarism. And, as usual, the
barbarism is the more engaging.
Colvin, you have to come here and see us in our { native /
mortal } spot. I just don't seem to be able to make up my
mind to your not coming. By this time, you will have seen
Graham, I hope, and he will be able to tell you something
about us, and something reliable, I shall feel for the first
time as if you knew a little about Samoa after that. Fanny
seems to be in the right way now. I must say she is very,
very well for her, and complains scarce at all. Yesterday,
she went down SOLA (at least accompanied by a groom) to pay a
visit; Belle, Lloyd and I went a walk up the mountain road -
the great public highway of the island, where you have to go
single file. The object was to show Belle that gaudy valley
of the Vaisigano which the road follows. If the road is to
be made and opened, as our new Chief Justice promises, it
will be one of the most beautiful roads in the world. But
the point is this: I forgot I had been three months in
civilisation, wearing shoes and stockings, and I tell you I
suffered on my soft feet; coming home, down hill, on that
stairway of loose stones, I could have cried. O yes, another
story, I knew I had. The house boys had not been behaving
well, so the other night I announced a FONO, and Lloyd and I
went into the boys' quarters, and I talked to them I suppose
for half an hour, and Talolo translated; Lloyd was there
principally to keep another ear on the interpreter; else
there may be dreadful misconceptions. I rubbed all their
ears, except two whom I particularly praised; and one man's
wages I announced I had cut down by one half. Imagine his
taking this smiling! Ever since, he has been specially
attentive and greets me with a face of really heavenly
brightness. This is another good sign of their really and
fairly accepting me as a chief. When I first came here, if I
had fined a man a sixpence, he would have quit work that
hour, and now I remove half his income, and he is glad to
stay on - nay, does not seem to entertain the possibility of
leaving. And this in the face of one particular difficulty -
I mean our house in the bush, and no society, and no women
society within decent reach.
I think I must give you our staff in a tabular form.
+ o SOSIMO, provost and butler, and my valet.
o MISIFOLO, who is Fanny and Belle's chamberlain.
+ o TALOLO, provost and chief cook.
+ o IOPU, second cook.
TALI, his wife, no wages.
TI'A, Samoan cook.
FEILOA'I, his child, no wages, likewise no work - Belle's
+ o LEUELU, Fanny's boy, gardener, odd jobs.
+ ELIGA, washman and daily errand man.
+ o HENRY SIMELE, provost and overseas of outside boys.
PULU, who is also our talking man and cries the ava.
The crosses mark out the really excellent boys. Ti'a is the
man who has just been fined half his wages; he is a beautiful
old man, the living image of 'Fighting Gladiator,' my
favourite statue - but a dreadful humbug. I think we keep
him on a little on account of his looks. This sign o marks
those who have been two years or upwards in the family. I
note all my old boys have the cross of honour, except
Misifolo; well, poor dog, he does his best, I suppose. You
should see him scour. It is a remark that has often been
made by visitors: you never see a Samoan run, except at
Vailima. Do you not suppose that makes me proud?
I am pleased to see what a success THE WRECKER was, having
already in little more than a year outstripped THE MASTER OF
About DAVID BALFOUR in two volumes, do see that they make it
a decent-looking book, and tell me, do you think a little
historical appendix would be of service? Lang bleats for
one, and I thought I might address it to him as a kind of
open letter.
No time after all. Good-bye.
R. L S.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - One page out of my picture book I must give
you. Fine burning day; half past two P.M. We four begin to
rouse up from reparatory slumbers, yawn, and groan, get a cup
of tea, and miserably dress: we have had a party the day
before, X'mas Day, with all the boys absent but one, and
latterly two; we had cooked all day long, a cold dinner, and
lo! at two our guests began to arrive, though dinner was not
till six; they were sixteen, and fifteen slept the night and
breakfasted. Conceive, then, how unwillingly we climb on our
horses and start off in the hottest part of the afternoon to
ride 4 and a half miles, attend a native feast in the gaol,
and ride four and a half miles back. But there is no help
for it. I am a sort of father of the political prisoners,
and have CHARGE D'AMES in that riotously absurd
establishment, Apia Gaol. The twenty-three (I think it is)
chiefs act as under gaolers. The other day they told the
Captain of an attempt to escape. One of the lesser political
prisoners the other day effected a swift capture, while the
Captain was trailing about with the warrant; the man came to
see what was wanted; came, too, flanked by the former gaoler;
my prisoner offers to show him the dark cell, shoves him in,
and locks the door. 'Why do you do that?' cries the former
gaoler. 'A warrant,' says he. Finally, the chiefs actually
feed the soldiery who watch them!
The gaol is a wretched little building, containing a little
room, and three cells, on each side of a central passage; it
is surrounded by a fence of corrugated iron, and shows, over
the top of that, only a gable end with the inscription O LE
FALE PUIPUI. It is on the edge of the mangrove swamp, and is
reached by a sort of causeway of turf. When we drew near, we
saw the gates standing open and a prodigious crowd outside -
I mean prodigious for Apia, perhaps a hundred and fifty
people. The two sentries at the gate stood to arms
passively, and there seemed to be a continuous circulation
inside and out. The captain came to meet us; our boy, who
had been sent ahead was there to take the horses; and we
passed inside the court which was full of food, and rang
continuously to the voice of the caller of gifts; I had to
blush a little later when my own present came, and I heard my
one pig and eight miserable pine-apples being counted out
like guineas. In the four corners of the yard and along one
wall, there are make-shift, dwarfish, Samoan houses or huts,
which have been run up since Captain Wurmbrand came to
accommodate the chiefs. Before that they were all crammed
into the six cells, and locked in for the night, some of them
with dysentery. They are wretched constructions enough, but
sanctified by the presence of chiefs. We heard a man
corrected loudly to-day for saying 'FALE' of one of them;
'MAOTA,' roared the highest chief present - 'palace.' About
eighteen chiefs, gorgeously arrayed, stood up to greet us,
and led us into one of these MAOTAS, where you may be sure we
had to crouch, almost to kneel, to enter, and where a row of
pretty girls occupied one side to make the ava (kava). The
highest chief present was a magnificent man, as high chiefs
usually are; I find I cannot describe him; his face is full
of shrewdness and authority; his figure like Ajax; his name
Auilua. He took the head of the building and put Belle on
his right hand. Fanny was called first for the ava (kava).
Our names were called in English style, the high-chief wife
of Mr. St- (an unpronounceable something); Mrs. Straw, and
the like. And when we went into the other house to eat, we
found we were seated alternately with chiefs about the -
table, I was about to say, but rather floor. Everything was
to be done European style with a vengeance! We were the only
whites present, except Wurmbrand, and still I had no
suspicion of the truth. They began to take off their ulas
(necklaces of scarlet seeds) and hang them about our necks;
we politely resisted, and were told that the King (who had
stopped off their SIVA) had sent down to the prison a message
to the effect that he was to give a dinner to-morrow, and
wished their second-hand ulas for it. Some of them were
content; others not. There was a ring of anger in the boy's
voice, as he told us we were to wear them past the King's
house. Dinner over, I must say they are moderate eaters at a
feast, we returned to the ava house; and then the curtain
drew suddenly up upon the set scene. We took our seats, and
Auilua began to give me a present, recapitulating each
article as he gave it out, with some appropriate comment. He
called me several times 'their only friend,' said they were
all in slavery, had no money, and these things were all made
by the hands of their families - nothing bought; he had one
phrase, in which I heard his voice rise up to a note of
triumph: 'This is a present from the poor prisoners to the
rich man.' Thirteen pieces of tapa, some of them
surprisingly fine, one I think unique; thirty fans of every
shape and colour; a kava cup, etc., etc. At first Auilua
conducted the business with weighty gravity; but before the
end of the thirty fans, his comments began to be humorous.
When it came to a little basket, he said: 'Here was a little
basket for Tusitala to put sixpence in, when he could get
hold of one' - with a delicious grimace. I answered as best
as I was able through a miserable interpreter; and all the
while, as I went on, I heard the crier outside in the court
calling my gift of food, which I perceived was to be
Gargantuan. I had brought but three boys with me. It was
plain that they were wholly overpowered. We proposed to send
for our gifts on the morrow; but no, said the interpreter,
that would never do; they must go away to-day, Mulinuu must
see my porters taking away the gifts, - 'make 'em jella,'
quoth the interpreter. And I began to see the reason of this
really splendid gift; one half, gratitude to me - one half, a
wipe at the King.
And now, to introduce darker colours, you must know this
visit of mine to the gaol was just a little bit risky; we had
several causes for anxiety; it MIGHT have been put up, to
connect with a Tamasese rising. Tusitala and his family
would be good hostages. On the other hand, there were the
Mulinuu people all about. We could see the anxiety of
Captain Wurmbrand, no less anxious to have us go, than he had
been to see us come; he was deadly white and plainly had a
bad headache, in the noisy scene. Presently, the noise grew
uproarious; there was a rush at the gate - a rush in, not a
rush out - where the two sentries still stood passive; Auilua
leaped from his place (it was then that I got the name of
Ajax for him) and the next moment we heard his voice roaring
and saw his mighty figure swaying to and fro in the hurlyburly.
As the deuce would have it, we could not understand a
word of what was going on. It might be nothing more than the
ordinary 'grab racket' with which a feast commonly concludes;
it might be something worse. We made what arrangements we
could for my tapa, fans, etc., as well as for my five pigs,
my masses of fish, taro, etc., and with great dignity, and
ourselves laden with ulas and other decorations, passed
between the sentries among the howling mob to our horses.
All's well that ends well. Owing to Fanny and Belle, we had
to walk; and, as Lloyd said, 'he had at last ridden in a
circus.' The whole length of Apia we paced our triumphal
progress, past the King's palace, past the German firm at
Sogi - you can follow it on the map - amidst admiring
exclamations of 'MAWAIA' - beautiful - it may be rendered 'O
my! ain't they dandy' - until we turned up at last into our
road as the dusk deepened into night. It was really
exciting. And there is one thing sure: no such feast was
ever made for a single family, and no such present ever given
to a single white man. It is something to have been the hero
of it. And whatever other ingredients there were,
undoubtedly gratitude was present. As money value I have
actually gained on the transaction!
Your note arrived; little profit, I must say. Scott has
already put his nose in, in ST. IVES, sir; but his appearance
is not yet complete; nothing is in that romance, except the
story. I have to announce that I am off work, probably for
six months. I must own that I have overworked bitterly -
overworked - there, that's legible. My hand is a thing that
was, and in the meanwhile so are my brains. And here, in the
very midst, comes a plausible scheme to make Vailima pay,
which will perhaps let me into considerable expense just when
I don't want it. You know the vast cynicism of my view of
affairs, and how readily and (as some people say) with how
much gusto I take the darker view?
Why do you not send me Jerome K. Jerome's paper, and let me
see THE EBB TIDE as a serial? It is always very important to
see a thing in different presentments. I want every number.
Politically we begin the new year with every expectation of a
bust in 2 or 3 days, a bust which may spell destruction to
Samoa. I have written to Baxter about his proposal.
JAN. 29TH, 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I had fully intended for your education and
moral health to fob you off with the meanest possible letter
this month, and unfortunately I find I will have to treat you
to a good long account of matters here. I believe I have
told you before about Tui-ma-le-alii-fano and my taking him
down to introduce him to the Chief Justice. Well, Tui came
back to Vailima one day in the blackest sort of spirits,
saying the war was decided, that he also must join in the
fight, and that there was no hope whatever of success. He
must fight as a point of honour for his family and country;
and in his case, even if he escaped on the field of battle,
deportation was the least to be looked for. He said he had a
letter of complaint from the Great Council of A'ana which he
wished to lay before the Chief Justice; and he asked me to
accompany him as if I were his nurse. We went down about
dinner time; and by the way received from a lurking native
the famous letter in an official blue envelope gummed up to
the edges. It proved to be a declaration of war, quite
formal, but with some variations that really made you bounce.
White residents were directly threatened, bidden to have
nothing to do with the King's party, not to receive their
goods in their houses, etc., under pain of an accident.
However, the Chief Justice took it very wisely and mildly,
and between us, he and I and Tui made up a plan which has
proved successful - so far. The war is over - fifteen chiefs
are this morning undergoing a curious double process of law,
comparable to a court martial; in which their complaints are
to be considered, and if possible righted, while their
conduct is to be criticised, perhaps punished. Up to now,
therefore, it has been a most successful policy; but the
danger is before us. My own feeling would decidedly be that
all would be spoiled by a single execution. The great hope
after all lies in the knotless, rather flaccid character of
the people. These are no Maoris. All the powers that
Cedarcrantz let go by disuse the new C. J. is stealthily and
boldly taking back again; perhaps some others also. He has
shamed the chiefs in Mulinuu into a law against taking heads,
with a punishment of six years' imprisonment and, for a
chief, degradation. To him has been left the sole conduct of
this anxious and decisive inquiry. If the natives stand it,
why, well! But I am nervous.
FEB. 1894.
DEAR COLVIN, - By a reaction, when your letter is a little
decent, mine is to be naked and unashamed. We have been much
exercised. No one can prophesy here, of course, and the
balance still hangs trembling, but I THINK it will go for
The mail was very late this time; hence the paltryness of
this note. When it came and I had read it, I retired with
THE EBB TIDE and read it all before I slept. I did not dream
it was near as good; I am afraid I think it excellent. A
little indecision about Attwater, not much. It gives me
great hope, as I see I CAN work in that constipated, mosaic
manner, which is what I have to do just now with WEIR OF
We have given a ball; I send you a paper describing the
event. We have two guests in the house, Captain-Count
Wurmbrand and Monsieur Albert de Lautreppe. Lautreppe is
awfully nice - a quiet, gentlemanly fellow, GONFLE DE REVES,
as he describes himself - once a sculptor in the atelier of
Henry Crosse, he knows something of art, and is really a
resource to me.
Letter from Meredith very kind. Have you seen no more of
What about my grandfather? The family history will grow to
be quite a chapter.
I suppose I am growing sensitive; perhaps, by living among
barbarians, I expect more civility. Look at this from the
author of a very interesting and laudatory critique. He
gives quite a false description of something of mine, and
talks about my 'insolence.' Frankly, I supposed 'insolence'
to be a tapua word. I do not use it to a gentleman, I would
not write it of a gentleman: I may be wrong, but I believe we
did not write it of a gentleman in old days, and in my view
he (clever fellow as he is) wants to be kicked for applying
it to me. By writing a novel - even a bad one - I do not
make myself a criminal for anybody to insult. This may amuse
you. But either there is a change in journalism, too gradual
for you to remark it on the spot, or there is a change in me.
I cannot bear these phrases; I long to resent them. My
forbears, the tenant farmers of the Mains, would not have
suffered such expressions unless it had been from Cauldwell,
or Rowallan, or maybe Auchendrane. My Family Pride bristles.
I am like the negro, 'I just heard last night' who my great,
great, great, great grandfather was. - Ever yours,
R. L. S.
MARCH 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is the very day the mail goes, and I
have as yet written you nothing. But it was just as well -
as it was all about my 'blacks and chocolates,' and what of
it had relation to whites you will read some of in the TIMES.
It means, as you will see, that I have at one blow quarrelled
with all the officials of Samoa, the Foreign Office, and I
suppose her Majesty the Queen with milk and honey blest. But
you'll see in the TIMES. I am very well indeed, but just
about dead and mighty glad the mail is near here, and I can
just give up all hope of contending with my letters, and lie
down for the rest of the day. These TIMES letters are not
easy to write. And I dare say the Consuls say, 'Why, then,
does he write them?'
I had miserable luck with ST. IVES; being already half-way
through it, a book I had ordered six months ago arrives at
last, and I have to change the first half of it from top to
bottom! How could I have dreamed the French prisoners were
watched over like a female charity school, kept in a
grotesque livery, and shaved twice a week? And I had made
all my points on the idea that they were unshaved and clothed
anyhow. However, this last is better business; if only the
book had come when I ordered it! A PROPOS, many of the books
you announce don't come as a matter of fact. When they are
of any value, it is best to register them. Your letter,
alas! is not here; I sent it down to the cottage, with all my
mail, for Fanny; on Sunday night a boy comes up with a
lantern and a note from Fanny, to say the woods are full of
Atuas and I must bring a horse down that instant, as the
posts are established beyond her on the road, and she does
not want to have the fight going on between us. Impossible
to get a horse; so I started in the dark on foot, with a
revolver, and my spurs on my bare feet, leaving directions
that the boy should mount after me with the horse. Try such
an experience on Our Road once, and do it, if you please,
after you have been down town from nine o'clock till six, on
board the ship-of-war lunching, teaching Sunday School (I
actually do) and making necessary visits; and the Saturday
before, having sat all day from half past six to half-past
four, scriving at my TIMES letter. About half-way up, just
in fact at 'point' of the outposts, I met Fanny coming up.
Then all night long I was being wakened with scares that
really should be looked into, though I KNEW there was nothing
in them and no bottom to the whole story; and the drums and
shouts and cries from Tanugamanono and the town keeping up an
all night corybantic chorus in the moonlight - the moon rose
late - and the search-light of the war-ship in the harbour
making a jewel of brightness as it lit up the bay of Apia in
the distance. And then next morning, about eight o'clock, a
drum coming out of the woods and a party of patrols who had
been in the woods on our left front (which is our true rear)
coming up to the house, and meeting there another party who
had been in the woods on our right { front / rear } which is
Vaea Mountain, and 43 of them being entertained to ava and
biscuits on the verandah, and marching off at last in single
file for Apia. Briefly, it is not much wonder if your letter
and my whole mail was left at the cottage, and I have no
means of seeing or answering particulars.
The whole thing was nothing but a bottomless scare; it was
OBVIOUSLY so; you couldn't make a child believe it was
anything else, but it has made the Consuls sit up. My own
private scares were really abominably annoying; as for
instance after I had got to sleep for the ninth time perhaps
- and that was no easy matter either, for I had a crick in my
neck so agonising that I had to sleep sitting up - I heard
noises as of a man being murdered in the boys' house. To be
sure, said I, this is nothing again, but if a man's head was
being taken, the noises would be the same! So I had to get
up, stifle my cries of agony from the crick, get my revolver,
and creep out stealthily to the boys' house. And there were
two of them sitting up, keeping watch of their own accord
like good boys, and whiling the time over a game of Sweepi
(Cascino - the whist of our islanders) - and one of them was
our champion idiot, Misifolo, and I suppose he was holding
bad cards, and losing all the time - and these noises were
his humorous protests against Fortune!
Well, excuse this excursion into my 'blacks and chocolates.'
It is the last. You will have heard from Lysaght how I
failed to write last mail. The said Lysaght seems to me a
very nice fellow. We were only sorry he could not stay with
us longer. Austin came back from school last week, which
made a great time for the Amanuensis, you may be sure. Then
on Saturday, the CURACOA came in - same commission, with all
our old friends; and on Sunday, as already mentioned, Austin
and I went down to service and had lunch afterwards in the
wardroom. The officers were awfully nice to Austin; they are
the most amiable ship in the world; and after lunch we had a
paper handed round on which we were to guess, and sign our
guess, of the number of leaves on the pine-apple; I never saw
this game before, but it seems it is much practised in the
Queen's Navee. When all have betted, one of the party begins
to strip the pine-apple head, and the person whose guess is
furthest out has to pay for the sherry. My equanimity was
disturbed by shouts of THE AMERICAN COMMODORE, and I found
that Austin had entered and lost about a bottle of sherry!
He turned with great composure and addressed me. 'I am
afraid I must look to you, Uncle Louis.' The Sunday School
racket is only an experiment which I took up at the request
of the late American Land Commissioner; I am trying it for a
month, and if I do as ill as I believe, and the boys find it
only half as tedious as I do, I think it will end in a month.
I have CARTE BLANCHE, and say what I like; but does any
single soul understand me?
Fanny is on the whole very much better. Lloyd has been under
the weather, and goes for a month to the South Island of New
Zealand for some skating, save the mark! I get all the
skating I want among officials.
Dear Colvin, please remember that my life passes among my
'blacks or chocolates.' If I were to do as you propose, in a
bit of a tiff, it would cut you off entirely from my life.
You must try to exercise a trifle of imagination, and put
yourself, perhaps with an effort, into some sort of sympathy
with these people, or how am I to write to you? I think you
are truly a little too Cockney with me. - Ever yours,
VAILIMA, MAY 18TH, 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - Your proposals for the Edinburgh edition
are entirely to my mind. About the AMATEUR EMIGRANT, it
shall go to you by this mail well slashed. If you like to
slash some more on your own account, I give you permission.
'Tis not a great work; but since it goes to make up the two
first volumes as proposed, I presume it has not been written
in vain. - MISCELLANIES. I see with some alarm the proposal
to print JUVENILIA; does it not seem to you taking myself a
little too much as Grandfather William? I am certainly not
so young as I once was - a lady took occasion to remind me of
the fact no later agone than last night. 'Why don't you
leave that to the young men, Mr. Stevenson?' said she - but
when I remember that I felt indignant at even John Ruskin
when he did something of the kind I really feel myself blush
from head to heel. If you want to make up the first volume,
there are a good many works which I took the trouble to
prepare for publication and which have never been
republished. In addition to ROADS and DANCING CHILDREN,
referred to by you, there is an Autumn effect in the
name of it - in CORNHILL. I have no objection to any of
these being edited, say with a scythe, and reproduced. But I
heartily abominate and reject the idea of reprinting the
PENTLAND RISING. For God's sake let me get buried first.
TALES AND FANTASIES. Vols. I. and II. have my hearty
approval. But I think III. and IV. had better be crammed
into one as you suggest. I will reprint none of the stories
mentioned. They are below the mark. Well, I dare say the
beastly BODY-SNATCHER has merit, and I am unjust to it from
my recollections of the PALL MALL. But the other two won't
do. For vols. V. and VI., now changed into IV. and V., I
propose the common title of SOUTH SEA YARNS. There! These
are all my differences of opinion. I agree with every detail
of your arrangement, and, as you see, my objections have
turned principally on the question of hawking unripe fruit.
I daresay it is all pretty green, but that is no reason for
us to fill the barrow with trash. Think of having a new set
of type cast, paper especially made, etc., in order to set up
rubbish that is not fit for the SATURDAY SCOTSMAN. It would
be the climax of shame.
I am sending you a lot of verses, which had best, I think, be
called UNDERWOODS Book III., but in what order are they to
go? Also, I am going on every day a little, till I get sick
of it, with the attempt to get the EMIGRANT compressed into
life; I know I can - or you can after me - do it. It is only
a question of time and prayer and ink, and should leave
something, no, not good, but not all bad - a very genuine
appreciation of these folks. You are to remember besides
there is that paper of mine on Bunyan in THE MAGAZINE OF ART.
O, and then there's another thing in SEELEY called some
spewsome name, I cannot recall it.
Well - come, here goes for JUVENILIA. DANCING INFANTS,
at the end of them, as it's really rather riper), the t'other
thing from SEELEY, and I'll tell you, you may put in my
letter to the Church of Scotland - it's not written amiss,
and I daresay the PHILOSOPHY OF UMBRELLAS might go in, but
there I stick - and remember THAT was a collaboration with
James Walter Ferrier. O, and there was a little skit called
the CHARITY BAZAAR, which you might see; I don't think it
would do. Now, I do not think there are two other words that
should be printed. - By the way, there is an article of mine
might find room for somewhere; it is no' bad.
Very busy with all these affairs and some native ones also.
VAILIMA, June 18th, 94.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - You are to please understand that my last
letter is withdrawn unconditionally. You and Baxter are
having all the trouble of this Edition, and I simply put
myself in your hands for you to do what you like with me, and
I am sure that will be the best, at any rate. Hence you are
to conceive me withdrawing all objections to your printing
anything you please. After all it is a sort of family
affair. About the Miscellany Section, both plans seem to me
quite good. Toss up. I think the OLD GARDENER has to stay
where I put him last. It would not do to separate John and
In short, I am only sorry I ever uttered a word about the
edition, and leave you to be the judge. I have had a vile
cold which has prostrated me for more than a fortnight, and
even now tears me nightly with spasmodic coughs; but it has
been a great victory. I have never borne a cold with so
little hurt; wait till the clouds blow by, before you begin
to boast! I have had no fever; and though I've been very
unhappy, it is nigh over, I think. Of course, ST. IVES has
paid the penalty. I must not let you be disappointed in ST.
I. It is a mere tissue of adventures; the central figure not
very well or very sharply drawn; no philosophy, no destiny,
to it; some of the happenings very good in themselves, I
believe, but none of them BILDENDE, none of them
constructive, except in so far perhaps as they make up a kind
of sham picture of the time, all in italics and all out of
drawing. Here and there, I think, it is well written; and
here and there it's not. Some of the episodic characters are
amusing, I do believe; others not, I suppose. However, they
are the best of the thing such as it is. If it has a merit
to it, I should say it was a sort of deliberation and swing
to the style, which seems to me to suit the mail-coaches and
post-chaises with which it sounds all through. 'Tis my most
prosaic book.
I called on the two German ships now in port, and we are
quite friendly with them, and intensely friendly of course
with our own CURACOAS. But it is other guess work on the
beach. Some one has employed, or subsidised, one of the
local editors to attack me once a week. He is pretty
scurrilous and pretty false. The first effect of the perusal
of the weekly Beast is to make me angry; the second is a kind
of deep, golden content and glory, when I seem to say to
people: 'See! this is my position - I am a plain man dwelling
in the bush in a house, and behold they have to get up this
kind of truck against me - and I have so much influence that
they are obliged to write a weekly article to say I have
By this time you must have seen Lysaght and forgiven me the
letter that came not at all. He was really so nice a fellow
- he had so much to tell me of Meredith - and the time was so
short - that I gave up the intervening days between mails
entirely to entertain him.
We go on pretty nicely. Fanny, Belle, and I have had two
months alone, and it has been very pleasant. But by tomorrow
or next day noon, we shall see the whole clan
assembled again about Vailima table, which will be pleasant
too; seven persons in all, and the Babel of voices will be
heard again in the big hall so long empty and silent. Goodbye.
Love to all. Time to close. - Yours ever,
R. L. S.
JULY, 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - I have to thank you this time for a very
good letter, and will announce for the future, though I
cannot now begin to put in practice, good intentions for our
correspondence. I will try to return to the old system and
write from time to time during the month; but truly you did
not much encourage me to continue! However, that is all bypast.
I do not know that there is much in your letter that
calls for answer. Your questions about ST. IVES were
practically answered in my last; so were your wails about the
edition, AMATEUR EMIGRANT, etc. By the end of the year ST.
I. will be practically finished, whatever it be worth, and
that I know not. When shall I receive proofs of the MAGNUM
OPUS? or shall I receive them at all?
The return of the Amanuensis feebly lightens my heart. You
can see the heavy weather I was making of it with my unaided
pen. The last month has been particularly cheery largely
owing to the presence of our good friends the CURACOAS. She
is really a model ship, charming officers and charming
seamen. They gave a ball last month, which was very rackety
and joyous and naval. . . .
On the following day, about one o'clock, three horsemen might
have been observed approaching Vailima, who gradually
resolved themselves into two petty officers and a native
guide. Drawing himself up and saluting, the spokesman (a
corporal of Marines) addressed me thus. 'Me and my shipmates
inwites Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, Mrs. Strong, Mr. Austin, and
Mr. Balfour to a ball to be given to-night in the self-same
'all.' It was of course impossible to refuse, though I
contented myself with putting in a very brief appearance.
One glance was sufficient; the ball went off like a rocket
from the start. I had only time to watch Belle careering
around with a gallant bluejacket of exactly her own height -
the standard of the British navy - an excellent dancer and
conspicuously full of small-talk - and to hear a remark from
a beach-comber, 'It's a nice sight this some way, to see the
officers dancing like this with the men, but I tell you, sir,
these are the men that'll fight together!'
I tell you, Colvin, the acquaintance of the men - and boys -
makes me feel patriotic. Eeles in particular is a man whom I
respect. I am half in a mind to give him a letter of
introduction to you when he goes home. In case you feel
inclined to make a little of him, give him a dinner, ask
Henry James to come to meet him, etc. - you might let me
know. I don't know that he would show his best, but he is a
remarkably fine fellow, in every department of life.
We have other visitors in port. A Count Festetics de Solna,
an Austrian officer, a very pleasant, simple, boyish
creature, with his young wife, daughter of an American
millionaire; he is a friend of our own Captain Wurmbrand, and
it is a great pity Wurmbrand is away.
Glad you saw and liked Lysaght. He has left in our house a
most cheerful and pleasing memory, as a good, pleasant, brisk
fellow with good health and brains, and who enjoys himself
and makes other people happy. I am glad he gave you a good
report of our surroundings and way of life; but I knew he
would, for I believe he had a glorious time - and gave one.
I am on fair terms with the two Treaty officials, though all
such intimacies are precarious; with the consuls, I need not
say, my position is deplorable. The President (Herr Emil
Schmidt) is a rather dreamy man, whom I like. Lloyd, Graham
and I go to breakfast with him to-morrow; the next day the
whole party of us lunch on the CURACOA and go in the evening
to a BIERABEND at Dr. Funk's. We are getting up a paperchase
for the following week with some of the young German
clerks, and have in view a sort of child's party for grown-up
persons with kissing games, etc., here at Vailima. Such is
the gay scene in which we move. Now I have done something,
though not as much as I wanted, to give you an idea of how we
are getting on, and I am keenly conscious that there are
other letters to do before the mail goes. - Yours ever,
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This is to inform you, sir, that on Sunday
last (and this is Tuesday) I attained my ideal here, and we
had a paper chase in Vailele Plantation, about 15 miles, I
take it, from us; and it was all that could be wished. It is
really better fun than following the hounds, since you have
to be your own hound, and a precious bad hound I was,
following every false scent on the whole course to the bitter
end; but I came in 3rd at the last on my little Jack, who
stuck to it gallantly, and awoke the praises of some
discriminating persons. (5 + 7 + 2.5 = 14.5 miles; yes, that
is the count.) We had quite the old sensations of
exhilaration, discovery, an appeal to a savage instinct; and
I felt myself about 17 again, a pleasant experience.
However, it was on the Sabbath Day, and I am now a pariah
among the English, as if I needed any increment of
unpopularity. I must not go again; it gives so much
unnecessary tribulation to poor people, and, sure, we don't
want to make tribulation. I have been forbidden to work, and
have been instead doing my two or three hours in the
plantation every morning. I only wish somebody would pay me
10 pounds a day for taking care of cacao, and I could leave
literature to others. Certainly, if I have plenty of
exercise, and no work, I feel much better; but there is Biles
the butcher! him we have always with us.
I do not much like novels, I begin to think, but I am
enjoying exceedingly Orme's HISTORY OF HINDOSTAN, a lovely
book in its way, in large quarto, with a quantity of maps,
and written in a very lively and solid eighteenth century
way, never picturesque except by accident and from a kind of
conviction, and a fine sense of order. No historian I have
ever read is so minute; yet he never gives you a word about
the people; his interest is entirely limited in the
concatenation of events, into which he goes with a lucid,
almost superhuman, and wholly ghostly gusto. 'By the ghost
of a mathematician' the book might be announced. A very
brave, honest book.
Your letter to hand.
Fact is, I don't like the picter. O, it's a good picture,
but if you ASK me, you know, I believe, stoutly believe, that
mankind, including you, are going mad, I am not in the midst
with the other frenzy dancers, so I don't catch it wholly;
and when you show me a thing - and ask me, don't you know -
Well, well! Glad to get so good an account of the AMATEUR
EMIGRANT. Talking of which, I am strong for making a volume
out of selections from the South Sea letters; I read over
again the King of Apemama, and it is good in spite of your
teeth, and a real curiosity, a thing that can never be seen
again, and the group is annexed and Tembinoka dead. I
wonder, couldn't you send out to me the FIRST five Butaritari
letters and the Low Archipelago ones (both of which I have
lost or mislaid) and I can chop out a perfectly fair volume
of what I wish to be preserved. It can keep for the last of
the series.
TRAVELS AND EXCURSIONS, vol. II. Should it not include a
paper on S. F. from the MAG. OF ART? The A. E., the New
Pacific capital, the Old ditto. SILVER. SQUAT. This would
give all my works on the States; and though it ain't very
good, it's not so very bad. TRAVELS AND EXCURSIONS, vol.
III., to be these resuscitated letters - MISCELLANIES, vol.
I have a sudden call to go up the coast and must hurry up
with my information. There has suddenly come to our naval
commanders the need of action, they're away up the coast
bombarding the Atua rebels. All morning on Saturday the
sound of the bombardment of Lotuanu'u kept us uneasy. To-day
again the big guns have been sounding further along the
To-morrow morning early I am off up the coast myself.
Therefore you must allow me to break off here without further
ceremony. - Yours ever,
VAILIMA, 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - This must be a very measly letter. I have
been trying hard to get along with ST. IVES. I should now
lay it aside for a year and I daresay I should make something
of it after all. Instead of that, I have to kick against the
pricks, and break myself, and spoil the book, if there were
anything to spoil, which I am far from saying. I'm as sick
of the thing as ever any one can be; it's a rudderless hulk;
it's a pagoda, and you can just feel - or I can feel - that
it might have been a pleasant story, if it had been only
blessed at baptism.
Our politics have gone on fairly well, but the result is
still doubtful.
I know I have something else to say to you, but unfortunately
I awoke this morning with collywobbles, and had to take a
small dose of laudanum with the usual consequences of dry
throat, intoxicated legs, partial madness and total
imbecility; and for the life of me I cannot remember what it
is. I have likewise mislaid your letter amongst the
accumulations on my table, not that there was anything in it.
Altogether I am in a poor state. I forgot to tell Baxter
that the dummy had turned up and is a fine, personablelooking
volume and very good reading. Please communicate
this to him.
I have just remembered an incident that I really must not let
pass. You have heard a great deal more than you wanted about
our political prisoners. Well, one day, about a fortnight
ago, the last of them was set free - Old Poe, whom I think I
must have mentioned to you, the father-in-law of my cook, was
one that I had had a great deal of trouble with. I had taken
the doctor to see him, got him out on sick leave, and when he
was put back again gave bail for him. I must not forget that
my wife ran away with him out of the prison on the doctor's
orders and with the complicity of our friend the gaoler, who
really and truly got the sack for the exploit. As soon as he
was finally liberated, Poe called a meeting of his fellowprisoners.
All Sunday they were debating what they were to
do, and on Monday morning I got an obscure hint from Talolo
that I must expect visitors during the day who were coming to
consult me. These consultations I am now very well used to,
and seeing first, that I generally don't know what to advise,
and second that they sometimes don't take my advice - though
in some notable cases they have taken it, generally to my own
wonder with pretty good results - I am not very fond of these
calls. They minister to a sense of dignity, but not peace of
mind, and consume interminable time always in the morning
too, when I can't afford it. However, this was to be a new
sort of consultation. Up came Poe and some eight other
chiefs, squatted in a big circle around the old dining-room
floor, now the smoking-room. And the family, being
represented by Lloyd, Graham, Belle, Austin and myself,
proceeded to exchange the necessary courtesies. Then their
talking man began. He said that they had been in prison,
that I had always taken an interest in them, that they had
now been set at liberty without condition, whereas some of
the other chiefs who had been liberated before them were
still under bond to work upon the roads, and that this had
set them considering what they might do to testify their
gratitude. They had therefore agreed to work upon my road as
a free gift. They went on to explain that it was only to be
on my road, on the branch that joins my house with the public
Now I was very much gratified at this compliment, although
(to one used to natives) it seemed rather a hollow one. It
meant only that I should have to lay out a good deal of money
on tools and food and to give wages under the guise of
presents to some workmen who were most of them old and in
ill-health. Conceive how much I was surprised and touched
when I heard the whole scheme explained to me. They were to
return to their provinces, and collect their families; some
of the young men were to live in Apia with a boat, and ply up
and down the coast to A'ana and A'tua (our own Tuamasaga
being quite drained of resources) in order to supply the
working squad with food. Tools they did ask for, but it was
especially mentioned that I was to make no presents. In
short, the whole of this little 'presentation' to me had been
planned with a good deal more consideration than goes usually
with a native campaign.
(I sat on the opposite side of the circle to the talking man.
His face was quite calm and high-bred as he went through the
usual Samoan expressions of politeness and compliment, but
when he came on to the object of their visit, on their love
and gratitude to Tusitala, how his name was always in their
prayers, and his goodness to them when they had no other
friend, was their most cherished memory, he warmed up to
real, burning, genuine feeling. I had never seen the Samoan
mask of reserve laid aside before, and it touched me more
than anything else. A.M.)
This morning as ever was, bright and early up came the whole
gang of them, a lot of sturdy, common-looking lads they
seemed to be for the most part, and fell to on my new road.
Old Poe was in the highest of good spirits, and looked better
in health than he has done any time in two years, being
positively rejuvenated by the success of his scheme. He
jested as he served out the new tools, and I am sorry to say
damned the Government up hill and down dale, probably with a
view to show off his position as a friend of the family
before his work-boys. Now, whether or not their impulse will
last them through the road does not matter to me one hair.
It is the fact that they have attempted it, that they have
volunteered and are now really trying to execute a thing that
was never before heard of in Samoa. Think of it! It is
road-making - the most fruitful cause (after taxes) of all
rebellions in Samoa, a thing to which they could not be wiled
with money nor driven by punishment. It does give me a sense
of having done something in Samoa after all.
Now there's one long story for you about 'my blacks.' - Yours
OCT. 6TH, 1894.
MY DEAR COLVIN, - We have had quite an interesting month and
mostly in consideration of that road which I think I told you
was about to be made. It was made without a hitch, though I
confess I was considerably surprised. When they got through,
I wrote a speech to them, sent it down to a Missionary to be
translated, and invited the lot to a feast. I thought a good
deal of this feast. The occasion was really interesting. I
wanted to pitch it in hot. And I wished to have as many
influential witnesses present as possible. Well, as it drew
towards the day I had nothing but refusals. Everybody
supposed it was to be a political occasion, that I had made a
hive of rebels up here, and was going to push for new
The Amanuensis has been ill, and after the above trial
petered out. I must return to my own, lone Waverley. The
captain refused, telling me why; and at last I had to beat up
for people almost with prayers. However, I got a good lot,
as you will see by the accompanying newspaper report. The
road contained this inscription, drawn up by the chiefs
'Considering the great love of Tusitala in his loving care of
us in our distress in the prison, we have therefore prepared
a splendid gift. It shall never be muddy, it shall endure
for ever, this road that we have dug.' This the newspaper
reporter could not give, not knowing any Samoan. The same
reason explains his references to Seumanutafa's speech, which
was not long and WAS important, for it was a speech of
courtesy and forgiveness to his former enemies. It was very
much applauded. Secondly, it was not Poe, it was Mataafa
(don't confuse with Mataafa) who spoke for the prisoners.
Otherwise it is extremely correct.
I beg your pardon for so much upon my aboriginals. Even you
must sympathise with me in this unheard-of compliment, and my
having been able to deliver so severe a sermon with
acceptance. It remains a nice point of conscience what I
should wish done in the matter. I think this meeting, its
immediate results, and the terms of what I said to them,
desirable to be known. It will do a little justice to me,
who have not had too much justice done me. At the same time,
to send this report to the papers is truly an act of selfadvertisement,
and I dislike the thought. Query, in a man
who has been so much calumniated, is that not justifiable? I
do not know; be my judge. Mankind is too complicated for me;
even myself. Do I wish to advertise? I think I do, God help
me! I have had hard times here, as every man must have who
mixes up with public business; and I bemoan myself, knowing
that all I have done has been in the interest of peace and
good government; and having once delivered my mind, I would
like it, I think, to be made public. But the other part of
I know I am at a climacteric for all men who live by their
wits, so I do not despair. But the truth is I am pretty
nearly useless at literature, and I will ask you to spare ST.
IVES when it goes to you; it is a sort of COUNT ROBERT OF
PARIS. But I hope rather a DOMBEY AND SON, to be succeeded
CITIES. No toil has been spared over the ungrateful canvas;
and it WILL NOT come together, and I must live, and my
family. Were it not for my health, which made it impossible,
I could not find it in my heart to forgive myself that I did
not stick to an honest, common-place trade when I was young,
which might have now supported me during these ill years.
But do not suppose me to be down in anything else; only, for
the nonce, my skill deserts me, such as it is, or was. It
was a very little dose of inspiration, and a pretty little
trick of style, long lost, improved by the most heroic
industry. So far, I have managed to please the journalists.
But I am a fictitious article and have long known it. I am
read by journalists, by my fellow-novelists, and by boys;
with these, INCIPIT ET EXPLICIT my vogue. Good thing anyway!
for it seems to have sold the Edition. And I look forward
confidently to an aftermath; I do not think my health can be
so hugely improved, without some subsequent improvement in my
brains. Though, of course, there is the possibility that
literature is a morbid secretion, and abhors health! I do
not think it is possible to have fewer illusions than I. I
sometimes wish I had more. They are amusing. But I cannot
take myself seriously as an artist; the limitations are so
obvious. I did take myself seriously as a workman of old,
but my practice has fallen off. I am now an idler and
cumberer of the ground; it may be excused to me perhaps by
twenty years of industry and ill-health, which have taken the
cream off the milk.
As I was writing this last sentence, I heard the strident
rain drawing near across the forest, and by the time I was
come to the word 'cream' it burst upon my roof, and has since
redoubled, and roared upon it. A very welcome change. All
smells of the good wet earth, sweetly, with a kind of
Highland touch; the crystal rods of the shower, as I look up,
have drawn their criss-cross over everything; and a gentle
and very welcome coolness comes up around me in little
draughts, blessed draughts, not chilling, only equalising the
temperature. Now the rain is off in this spot, but I hear it
roaring still in the nigh neighbourhood - and that moment, I
was driven from the verandah by random rain drops, spitting
at me through the Japanese blinds. These are not tears with
which the page is spotted! Now the windows stream, the roof
reverberates. It is good; it answers something which is in
my heart; I know not what; old memories of the wet moorland
Well, it has blown by again, and I am in my place once more,
with an accompaniment of perpetual dripping on the verandah -
and very much inclined for a chat. The exact subject I do
not know! It will be bitter at least, and that is strange,
for my attitude is essentially NOT bitter, but I have come
into these days when a man sees above all the seamy side, and
I have dwelt some time in a small place where he has an
opportunity of reading little motives that he would miss in
the great world, and indeed, to-day, I am almost ready to
call the world an error. Because? Because I have not
drugged myself with successful work, and there are all kinds
of trifles buzzing in my ear, unfriendly trifles, from the
least to the - well, to the pretty big. All these that touch
me are Pretty Big; and yet none touch me in the least, if
rightly looked at, except the one eternal burthen to go on
making an income. If I could find a place where I could lie
down and give up for (say) two years, and allow the sainted
public to support me, if it were a lunatic asylum, wouldn't I
go, just! But we can't have both extremes at once, worse
luck! I should like to put my savings into a proprietarian
investment, and retire in the meanwhile into a communistic
retreat, which is double-dealing. But you men with salaries
don't know how a family weighs on a fellow's mind.
I hear the article in next week's HERALD is to be a great
affair, and all the officials who came to me the other day
are to be attacked! This is the unpleasant side of being
(without a salary) in public life; I will leave anyone to
judge if my speech was well intended, and calculated to do
good. It was even daring - I assure you one of the chiefs
looked like a fiend at my description of Samoan warfare.
Your warning was not needed; we are all determined to KEEP
THE PEACE and to HOLD OUR PEACE. I know, my dear fellow, how
remote all this sounds! Kindly pardon your friend. I have
my life to live here; these interests are for me immediate;
and if I do not write of them, I might as soon not write at
all. There is the difficulty in a distant correspondence.
It is perhaps easy for me to enter into and understand your
interests; I own it is difficult for you; but you must just
wade through them for friendship's sake, and try to find
tolerable what is vital for your friend. I cannot forbear
challenging you to it, as to intellectual lists. It is the
proof of intelligence, the proof of not being a barbarian, to
be able to enter into something outside of oneself, something
that does not touch one's next neighbour in the city omnibus.
Good-bye, my lord. May your race continue and you flourish -
Yours ever,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?